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True Confections: A Novel Paperback – December 7, 2010

3.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this winning, offbeat tale, Weber unfurls Alice Tatnall's insecure Unitarian adolescence, which leads to her approval-seeking adulthood as the wife of candy heir Howard Howdy Ziplinsky. Alice has felt ostracized by family and peers after accidentally burning down a classmate's house as a teenager. As a result, her college acceptance is rescinded, and she ends up working at Zip's Candies, where she meets and falls in love with the owner's son, a Jewish man 10 years her senior. After marrying Howard, Alice takes to the candy business quickly and has two kids. Alice's story, framed as an affidavit, is a pleasure to read and full of small and not so small surprises, including the near-tragedy at the candy company that has much to do with why she's writing an affidavit in the first place. Alice is an immediately lovable narrator, and her narration eventually bears hints about its possible lack of credibility, giving readers even more of a reason to keep turning pages. This story of love, life and sweets is a genuine treat. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In her fifth novel, after Triangle (2006), Weber unleashes a wacky comic sensibility. Ostracized by her high-school clique and denied admission to college after accidentally setting fire to a classmate’s home, Alice Tatnall applies for a job at Zip’s Candies on a whim and finds her life’s calling. Immediately taken under the wing of candy magnate Sam Ziplinsky, Alice learns the ins and outs of the candy-making business, from mixing the proper proportions of the ingredients to repairing the ancient production line that churns out the company’s reliable moneymakers, Little Sammies, Tigermelts, and Mumbo Jumbos. She further cements her place within the company and the family by marrying Sam’s son and heir Howard “Howdy” Ziplinsky and bearing him two children. Billed as an affidavit, Alice’s slyly funny, frequently self-serving, and perhaps unreliable narration leads to some unexpected surprises when Alice’s old nickname, Arson Girl, comes back to haunt her in a big way. Filled with candy lore, impassioned critiques of chocolate, and Alice’s one-of-a-kind takes on marriage and family, this is sweet reading for fans of the offbeat. --Joanne Wilkinson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (December 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307395871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307395870
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,015,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Now, do I know more about the making of candy - both worldwide and in the United States - after reading Katherine Weber's novel, "True Confections"? I sure do, just as I know more about the German plan to populate the island of Madagascar with Jewish refugees in a forced resettlement in WW2. The amount of history - of both the sweet and not-so-sweet kind - I learned from reading Weber's quirky novel is adding to my store of somewhat useless information. (I'm a whiz at Trivial Pursuit, by the way...)

"True Confections" is written in the form of a deposition that Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky has to write for a court case she's involved in. Is it criminal or civil? I think it's civil, though Alice, now in her 50's, has a charge of arson in her past. "It was an accident. I didn't mean to burn my friend's house down with a water gun filled with charcoal fuel!", she writes, referring to an event that changed her life, putting off college, and going to work at a candy company in New Haven, CT. She takes to the making of candy like the proverbial duck to the proverbial water. She marries at age 18 the son of the owner of the family-held candy company - Howard Ziplinsky - and becomes a working partner in the company, Zip's Candies. From production to marketing, Alice tends business as she tends her two children by Howard. The company, founded in the mid-1920's by a Hungarian immigrant - is still successful, producing niche chocolate and licorice candies.

Years go by and Howard and Alice make both a family and good candy together, but Howard leaves her to live in Madagascar, which is the home of the other half of the Ziplinsky family. Alice takes full control of Zip's and things start happening under her control.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Katharine Weber has written a fiercely fascinating novel that reads like a true story. It's all in the first person, told by Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky in the form of "a multi-generational saga of the family-owned-and-operated candy company, now in crisis." According to Alice, she is the most reliable person to tell this tale as "Nobody is more devoted than Alice to delving into the truth of Zip's history."

Zip's Candy has been around since the early twentieth century, founded by one Eli Ziplinsky and his brother. The three primary candies are Little Sammies, Tigermelts, and Mumbo Jumbos, all names taken from the children's book, The Story of Little Black Sambo.

The story starts out with Alice telling the reader about her entrance into the Ziplinsky family. She has applied for a job and is hired by Sam Ziplinsky, the current patriarch of the family, on the spot. This is a real coup for Alice as she has a history of being found guilty of a grade three felony for arson. Alice goes through all the hoops she can to let the reader know that the whole trial was a farce and the arson itself an accident. She had an incompetent lawyer and she would never have been found guilty under other circumstances. The media has named Alice 'Arson Girl" and she carries this shame with her. Working at Zip's changes Alice's life. "Perhaps some people would call this destiny. Zip's candies needed me, and I needed Zip's Candies. An inexplicable joy welled up in me as I realized that I knew that my life could start again from here, from this moment."

Alice loves the Ziplinsky family and shortly after starting work there, gets involved with Howard, Sam's son.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's almost impossible to resist gustatory metaphors in describing this lively tale of a family-run candy business, and one apt glycemic analogy might be mille feuilles (the French puff pastry composed of "a thousand leaves," or layers). But in fact this is not a sweet story, and I think a better food comparison would be an Indian biryani: a large, complex, subtly spiced, potentially messy entree that yields sometimes surprising ingredients (like cardamom pods and almonds) the deeper you dig.

Katharine Weber is an erudite but highly entertaining writer, who scatters bits of French, Latin and German (not to mention Malagasi--the language of Madagascar, as we learn) phrases through her otherwise earthy and mostly hilarious tale of four generations of the Ziplinksy family. The first-person narrator, Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky (a.k.a. Arson Girl), has a WASP family of origin but when she marries into the Zip clan, she almost immediately absorbs the high-energy, combat-ready modus operandi of her new meshpocheh.

The compelling story is told in the form of an affidavit, and it is only one of Weber's literary achievements that she grips our attention without revealing, until near the end, the reason for the affidavit. But this is no dry document--it's a rollicking tale of fascinating family dynamics and some dysfunction, as well as an apparently fact-studded tutorial on candy manufacturing.

At the outset, we have no reason to believe that Alice is telling anything other than the truth, but gradually we realize that either she is changing over the years, or she has always been a somewhat unreliable and opinionated narrator. The issue of truth is at the core of the novel, and the reader is frequently challenged to sort it out from the embellishments.
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