Candy and Me
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A Love Story
Reading Group Guide
1. Hilary's memories are attached to different kinds of candy. As she writes about Bottle Caps, "when a good thing comes along, memories have a propensity for attaching themselves to it." Did candy play a similar role in your life to its role in Hilary's life? Is there another lens through which you recall events in your life?
2. The subtitle of Candy and Me
is "A Love Story" and candy is a love of Hilary's life, both real and metaphoric. How does her relationship with candy evolve in the course of the book? Do the different "eras" of her life resonate with your own passage from one life stage to another?
3. What are your favorite candies? What are your family's favorites? Did/does your family have seasonal or ethnic favorites for different holidays or do you have a single favorite that you have to have daily or weekly? Have these favorites changed over the years? Are your childhood favorites different from what you like now? If so, why do you think that is?
4. Have you ever forged a friendship or bond over candy or some other food, the way Hilary does with cocoa powder and Circus Peanuts? Have you ever forged a bond over a common dislike of a certain food? Have you ever had a disagreement or a fight over the relative value of one candy or food over another? Which is superior, dark chocolate or white chocolate?
5. What are some of the ways that foods help us connect with other people or distinguish ourselves from other people? Do you trust people more who like the candies or foods that you like?
6. What makes a really great candy? What do Junior Mints represent for Hilary? How are they (metaphorically) different from Circus Peanuts? What about the candies that repeat themselves, like Bottle Caps and Marshmallow Eggs? What candy likes and dislikes repeat themselves in your life?
7. Hilary alternately calls candy "evil," and "a simple joy." Which is it? Is Hilary's relationship to it healthy or sick? Is addiction always undesirable or can it lead to a deeper understanding of life and self?
8. Hilary's parents try different approaches to dealing with her obsession: They forbid candy; they give her an unlimited supply of butter and sugar; her mother tells her she'll be fat. Do you agree with their tactics as she describes them? Does she really seem out of control in her eating? What would you do if you had a child who wouldn't stop eating candy? How do you put limits on your own indulgence in candy or foods or activities that you love?
9. In Candy and Me,
the chapters are very short. Hilary doesn't tell how her affair with her camp counselor ends, she only says "One person moves away, or the other gets bored, or they run out of things to talk about." Is she holding back critical information? Does a complete picture of a life emerge? How is this personal history told differently from other memoirs?
10. Some chapters, like "Trix," are trivial, and some, like "The Assortment" and "Fudge" deal with serious, sad events. Is this jarring to you? Can candy as a metaphor effectively straddle light and heavy issues?
11. Hilary marries Chris, the man who wins her with Bottle Caps. Does Chris feed or quell her candy addiction? Do you have friends or partners who make it easy or hard for you to stay balanced in how you live or what you eat?
12. What critical candies were left out of the book? Does chocolate deserve more attention? Is there a difference between people who eat chocolates and people who eat sugary candies?
13. The chapter "I Know What You're Thinking" says "What about tooth decay, weight gain, acne, diabetes? I don't want to talk about any of those things." Why does Hilary address the reader directly here? Were you thinking what she guesses? Did she deal with these issues in the book? Why or why not?
14. At the end of the book, Hilary says of Meltaways, "The three of us make a fine pair." What is she saying about her relationship with candy at this point in her life? Is it resolved? How does a couple best manage different tastes?