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Candy Book Review: Candyfreak

Categories: Candy,Candy Art,Classic and Retro Candy

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candyfreak book cover

The last time I did a book report I think I must have been a freshman in high school. However, Candyfreak (it’s one word, not two) is definitely something I have had my eyes on for a while, but never had a chance to pick up until now.

I first met Steve Almond, the author of the book, because a friend of mine had reviewed his first collection of short stories (Mr. Almond is more a fiction writer than he is a candy author), and she introduced the two of us. We went out for drinks and attended one of his book readings, and I can personally attest to him being a top-of–the-line guy.

It wasn’t until speaking with Steve and learning more about what he wrote that I learned about Candyfreak. The premise of the work surprised me, as the short fiction through which he had built a name for himself contained some very adult-rated material, i.e., not suitable for candy-loving children. True to my word, I told him I would buy and read a copy if he signed it, which he did, and the work sat on my bookshelf until now.

The story arc of the book is simple. In an autobiographical account, Steve travels to the some of the last remaining, independently owned candy manufacturers that serve as alternatives to the big three of Hershey, Mars, and Nestle. Readers follow him from Pennsylvania to Idaho to California sampling Peanut Chews, Idaho Spuds, and various Annabelle products.

There is a greater point to the work. The underlying atmosphere of it is actually rather dour. Steve is journeying to all these factories because he is depressed; candy serves as his sole marker for happier times of his childhood, and he sets out on his spontaneous journey more of a way to cope with his sadness by retreating to something that once brought him joy than for just the pure love of candy documentation.

As a candy enthusiast and as a writer, I was torn by this work. One half adored this work for its history and introduction to many pieces of candy I have never known; the other felt the ultimate conceptualization of the work was too blatant, and a subtler execution of the driving plot would have sufficed. Either way, there is just something compelling about the metaphors of a man who writes about how he would give up his possessions to try a Caravelle bar again or recount his ascetic father spoiling himself with dark chocolate.

Candyfreak has become a staple in candy-related reading, and for good reason. It shines a brilliant and uplifting light into the world of small candy manufacturing, despite doing so with a “capitalism is destroying this country and our candy” overtone. Read it for your candy side. Read it for your literary side. Read it to find out the second part to my favorite line of the year, where in a throwback to Steve’s short fiction nature is the line “If you give a teenage boy a candy bar with a ruler on the back of the package….”

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4 Responses to “Candy Book Review: Candyfreak”

  1. 1
    CandySnob says:

    I loved this book too. I have a particularly soft spot in my heart for the retro, regional candy brands, and Candy Freak told their story and their value in a great way.

  2. 2
    Mrs.Reece says:

    Hmm….

  3. 3
    buckycatt says:

    Marathon bars!!! I miss the heck outta those.

  4. 4
    sirenoftitan says:

    This book is great. I read it a few years ago, about the time I discovered Candy Addict. Word to the wise–make sure you have some delicious, delicious candy to eat while reading it.

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