Candy is a witch with a sweet tooth. She lives in a candy cottage on the edge of Pink City, not too far from the metropolis of Oblivion, and, like many a nerd and/or monster before her, she's a bit of a misfit. She has difficulties with her mother, is in a sucky (ha ha) relationship with a vampire, and has chosen vegetarianism because she can't abide the true nature of witchcraft -- the deep carnality (and carnivorousness) that links a witch to her power.
This is just the beginning, of course. Sweet Tomb tells the story of Candy's eventual self-acceptance, a journey that involves chocolate, hallucinations about Pinocchio, and a lesbian flirtation with Death (a banker with a penchant for jeweled shoes). It's an allegory of sorts -- an inverted and updated Pilgrim's Progress for the 21st century, reoriented toward the earthly revelation of its protagonist and decidedly third wave feminist in its approach.
I liked Candy, and I identified with her process, but I felt lukewarm towards Sweet Tomb. The novella treads in some saturated territory -- most obviously, Wicked and Shrek have made fairy tale characters with oh-so-human problems ubiquitous, if not expected -- and Sweet Tomb doesn't begin to distinguish itself until close to its end, when Candy meets Death and chooses to attend a ball/shoe extravanganza/feeding frenzy hosted by Evil.
As far as I know, this is Trinie Dalton's fifth publication, including the McSweeney's anthology Dear New Girl Or Whatever Your Name Is (a book of notes confiscated from students during Dalton's time as a subsitute teacher) and Mythtym (an anthology of her self-publications). My favorite is Wide Eyed, which addresses issues similar to Sweet Tomb -- sex, growing up and identity -- but is much more poignant. There's a lot of humor to be found in both books, and I am a fan of Dalton's work in all its forms, but Sweet Tomb lacks the sweetly ordinary slippage between myth and reality that drives Wide Eyed.
"Not knowing where you come from is dumber than never wanting to leave." This is the last line of "Decrepit," the story that kicks off Wide Eyed. I can understand why Dalton wanted to experiment and situate Sweet Tomb's protagonist solely in the realm of fantasy, but I hope that she doesn't forget her own advice and that she continues to explore the voice that makes works like Wide Eyed so unique.
All proceeds from the purchase of Sweet Tomb go to the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants here in California.