Alice Ziplinsky, nee Tatnall, has been asked to sign an affidavit in which she is required to tell the history of the New Haven, Connecticut business, Zip’s Candy factory. The reader does not yet know the reasons for the affidavit but can assume that she is involved in some sort of legal action with the family.
The history of Zip’s, then, is told through Alice’s eyes and experiences, as an employee of thirty-three years and a naturalized family member, with little dialogue between characters. Alice reveals that she started working for Zip’s in the mid-1970s, shortly after high school. Her college enrollment had been postponed due to the house fire she started at her friend’s parent’s house, which was completely destroyed, with one feline causality. She responded to the ad on a whim and was hired by the Sam, the son of the founder. It was at Zip’s where she met Howard, ten years her senior, who became her husband after just three short months, much to his mother’s chagrin.
From what Alice knows from Sam and the 19 journals she kept where she recorded their weekly lunch conversations, Zip’s was started by Sam’s father, Eli, a Hungarian immigrant who had a misguided admiration for Little Black Sambo, which inspired Zip’s three primary candy lines: Little Sammies, Mumbo Jumbos, and Tigermelts. How her husband Howard eventually came to stay in the family business, however, has been something of a secret hidden from her by his parents.
Alice peppers the Ziplinsky’s sordid family history, including the Malagasy side, with factoids about chocolate, the candy-making process, and stories of some of Zip’s biggest competitors (i.e. Peter Paul and Hershey’s). My biggest complaint with Alice is that you are so intrigued with a teaser she mentions, but she doesn’t get back to it until pages and pages later, or until much later in the novel. Instead of going off in various tangents, no matter how interesting, I wish she had stayed more on track. This might discourage some readers. Although not a quick read (the entire book consists of Alice’s narration without any dialogue between characters), I really enjoyed this quirky, fascinating, and humorous novel.