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Candy Freak by Steve Almond

Xw12_2 I first saw Candy Freak here at the library about a year ago, and was fascinated by the author’s devotion to all things sweet, processed, and junky, although I was smitten with another book at the time.  Candy Freak caught my eye a year later, and after a couple of Dove’s Darks, I pretty quickly reassessed its value as an entry for this blog. 

As part salute to the multitudes of packaged candies that have dotted the American landscape in the past century and part lament on the squeeze of mega-businesses on today’s candy industry, Almond calls our attention on the bygone days when regional brands ruled the day and the hegemony of the Big Three (as he calls Hershey, Mars, & Nestle) wasn’t nearly as pronounced.

The first part of the book is Almond’s humorous reminisce about the sweets that peopled his childhood and adolescence, when he discovered (and yes, embraced) his addiction to candy, and learned how to maximize his limited teenage buying power for the best sugar buzz. The mention of some of the little-known brand names brought me back to my own childhood in a strong way – the bittersweet memories of having a couple of bucks to blow on sweets, back when a dollar mattered, and coming home (if making it home with the bag intact) with a bag full of Zero bars, caramels, Mary Jane’s, Bit-O-Honey’s, various hard candies sure to bust a tooth out, and other brands that elude me now.

Almond also tours some of America’s last bastions of small business candy manufacturing and meets the owners of these establishments, who, in their own quirky fashion, manage to keep their own little niches of sweets heaven afloat amid corporate takeovers.  These individuals display a wonderful belief in their product and a zeal that makes you want to take your hat off to these holdouts of Mom and Pop America.  Ever wonder how and where the Goo Goo Cluster is created?  You’ll find out, in graphic detail, along with other regional candies such as the Valomilk, the Idaho Spud, and other gooey delights.

If you have a yen for the sweet, the packaged, the nostalgic days of yore, love the wacky world of candy, and like a fun read, then Candy Freak won’t disappoint.

(William Hicks, Information Services)


One Response

  1. bittersweet? Sour? Not a bit! It is obvious the author of this review does not sugarcoat his comments.


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