Stephen King and Richard Chizmar take the reader back to the town of Castle Rock, Maine where the unlikely is always likely to happen. In Gwendy’s Button Box, twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson breaks a child’s cardinal rule; she talks to a stranger. When a stranger calls her over for a “palaver” she hesitantly joins him on a bench. In a King thriller, a stranger is almost always a bad thing. What follows is classic King as the stage is set for a tale spanning years.
The stranger is dressed appropriately for a questionable character; “…black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat.” Most children seeing a man they didn’t know, attired so oddly on a hot summer day, would run all the way home. However, little Gwendy does the opposite. Her curiosity gets the best of her. She is not the most popular child; her list of friends is short. At the end of summer, she will enter middle school, hopefully leaving elementary school teasing behind. You see, Gwendy is on the “plump” side. Observed by the man in black, her figure becomes a short topic of conversation. Uneasy about the direction the talk is taking Gwendy opts to take off. But then, the stranger tells her he has been watching her and he has a gift for her. My radar went up as I read this part. Fortunately, things didn’t go the way I feared. Finally introducing himself as Mr. Farris, he encourages her to sit beside him, and he brings forth a box. As he instructs her on how to operate this mysterious box with buttons that can be pressed and levers to be pulled. After demonstrating what the box can do when the buttons are pushed, he turns the box over to the young girl with the admonishment she keeps the treasure a secret.
Without giving away exactly what the mysterious box can do, I will only reveal Gwendy can have anything she wants if she pushes the red button. Imagine the temptation of a simple button on a box being the doorway to your wildest dreams! Imagine giving such a tempting device to a pre-teen girl! The black button is what Farris calls, “The whole shebang”; a curious phrase that might presage things to come.
The book follows Gwendy through middle and high school. There are buttons that can be pushed regularly that will reward her. There are the dangerous red and black buttons. This is a story of responsibility, a cautionary tale. It’s an inspection of what can happen when not God, but, a young girl, has the whole world in her hands.
I loved this book. I loved the characters. I adore Gwendy; her spunk, her curiosity, her honesty, and her courage. Every experience she has throughout the book touches my heart. She is me, my daughters, and my granddaughters all wrapped up in one girl. I think every girl and every woman should read this book to realize what we can be. Every man should read it so they can understand what most girls and women can be. It’s amazingly insightful for a book written by two men. I haven’t enjoyed a King book this much in a while. And I am now going to buy Richard Chizmar’s book. Gwendy’s Button Box is damned fine writing and terrific reading.