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True Confections

Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky’s marriage into the Ziplinsky family has not been unanimously celebrated. Her greatest ambition is to belong, to feel truly entitled to the heritage she has tried so hard to earn. Which is why Zip’s Candies is much more to her than just a candy factory, where she has worked for most of her life. In True Confections , Alice has her reasons for telling the multigenerational saga of the family-owned-and-operated candy company, now in crisis.

Katharine Weber
Historical Fiction
Discussion Materials: 

Author Website -

Biographical information (from “Books & Authors” website) –

Personal Information:

Born November 12, 1955, in New York, NY; daughter of Sidney (a film producer) and Andrea (a photographer and bird watcher) Kaufman; married Nicholas Fox Weber, September 19, 1976; children: Lucy Swift, Charlotte Fox. Education: Attended New School for Social Research, 1972-76, and Yale University, 1982-84. Politics: "Quite left--a red diaper baby." Religion: "Cultural identity, mostly Jewish--religious beliefs, mostly absent." Memberships: National Book Critics Circle, Authors Guild, Authors League of America, PEN. Addresses: Home: Bethany, CT. Office: 210 Prospect St., New Haven, CT 06510. Agent: Watkins Loomis, Inc., 133 E. 35th St., New York, NY 10016.

Career Information:

Harper & Row, New York, NY, editorial assistant, 1975; Richard Meier and Partners Architects, New York, in-house editor, 1975; American Institute of Graphic Arts, New York, assistant to the director, 1976; Josef Albers Foundation, Orange, CT, archivist, 1976-81; Sunday New Haven Register, New Haven, CT, weekly columnist, 1985-87; Publishers Weekly, weekly fiction reviewer, 1988-92; Columbia University, New York, graduate thesis advisor and adjunct assistant professor, eight years. Fairfield University, guest speaker, 1988-90; Mattatuck Community College, teacher at One Day Writer's Conference, 1992; Connecticut College, visiting writer in residence, 1996-97; Yale University, visiting lecturer, beginning 1997; Goucher College, Kratz Writer in Residence, 2006.

Administrator of the estate of Kay Swift, 1990-94; Kay Swift Memorial Trust, trustee, beginning 1995; conducted archival research in Warburg family papers in conjunction with Ron Chernow's work for The Warburgs; artistic advisor for PS Classics, 2004. Residents for Rural Roads, founding member, 1980-84; National Book Critics Circle, board member, 2001-03.


Named best columnist of the year, New England Women's Press Association, 1986; Discovery Award, New England Booksellers Association, 1995; included among Granta's best young American novelists, 1996; Connecticut Book Award for Fiction, 2007, for Triangle.


True Confections explores the life of Alice Tatnall and is told in the form of an affidavit. Alice discusses her painful adolescence; she feels abandoned by her family and friends after inadvertently causing her friend's house to burn down. The event causes her college acceptance to be withdrawn, and Alice instead takes a job at Zip's candies. Alice meets and marries the owner's son, Howard "Howdy" Ziplinsky. She begins running the business and has two children. The quirky heroine and candy's impact on her life dominate the story.

"True Confections isn't a rollicking novel, since Alice isn't the rollicking type, but it's got everything: humor, treachery, class struggle, racism, murder, capitalism and mass quantities of candy," Jincy Willett remarked in the New York Times Book Review. "Dieting readers may suffer. Others, after turning the last page, may find themselves online, researching the origins of their own dimly remembered childhood treats." Willett went on to call the novel "a great American tale." Los Angeles Times Diana Wagman lauded the book as well, calling True Confections Weber's "most delectable novel yet." According to Wagman, Alice "wouldn't be Alice if she weren't obsessive-compulsive about the details, terrified of leaving something out and allowing us to draw our own conclusions. Which, of course, we do. The more unreliable Alice appears, the more fascinating the story becomes. Far from being a bit of spun sugar, True Confections has plenty to digest. The last line is delicious." The book is "witty" and "thoroughly enjoyable," Donna Marchetti announced in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, while Curled Up with a Good Book Web site writer Michael Leonard stated that "this is a candy land of sweet esoterica." Leonard added: "While the novel gets bogged down a bit by the ins-and-outs of candymaking, the book is mostly rich in detail and narrative, both the historical and contemporary elements transporting the reader through time and place, highlighting Alice's need to be loved and accepted for her hard work." As Forward reviewer Beth Kissileff pointed out: "The writer Barbara Kingsolver has said that the first paragraph of a novel should make a promise that the rest of the book can keep. Weber's first sentence brings the reader directly into her fictional world, in all its mechanized specificity." Kissileff then commented that "whether you ever consume a piece of Zip's Candies or not, Weber's new novel is a delectable addition to any reading menu."

Weber once told CA: "I have rarely done things in the usual order. I have no high school diploma, having left after eleventh grade to attend the New School when I was sixteen, and I have no college degree, though several years of part-time college at the New School and Yale. One way of thinking about this as an asset rather than a liability is to consider my education as being an ongoing activity rather than something that has been completed.

"Though I worked as a journalist and critic for several years, my fiction was never published anywhere until a story of mine was selected off the slush pile for publication in the New Yorker in January of 1993. That story was to form part of my first novel. I tell this story to encourage all unpublished fiction writers. It can happen."

Book group guide -

Publishers Weekly review: 

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.

BookList review:

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.