Gwendy’s Button Box (2017) – Richard Chizmar, and Stephen King

I’m always delighted to dig into a Stephen King story. Equally so when it takes me back to Castle Rock (not sure I’d want to visit Derry anytime soon). He pairs up with author Richard Chizmarto to deliver a unique coming-of-age tale.

Gwendy Peterson is a young girl who encounters the enigmatic and vaguely unnerving Mr. Farris. Underneath the dark hat he wears is a man that will change the course of Gwendy’s entire life, and plunge her into horror and glory.

Atop the aptly named Suicide Stairs in one of Castle Rock’s parks, Mr. Farris gifts Gwendy with a mahogany box, its surface is covered with a collection of buttons. These buttons will change the course of events of the world if pressed. Farris entrusts the box and all its wonders to Gwendy as he believes he is an appropriate keeper for it.

The box doesn’t simply need looking after, it also influences, it’s powerful, and it empowers. Gwendy, with the box’s gifts, becomes almost a perfect ideal of humanity, something we all aim for, but the dark side of reality and regular everyday life threatens to pull her back and ground her as she grows into adulthood.

King has a way of eliciting nostalgia, vividly recreating a time period with the paintbrush of his words. Pairing him with Chizmar allows both authors to deliver this truly engaging tale, giving us a character we can relate to and understand. We recall our own youth as Gwendy confronts events in her own middle school and high school years.

The novella is a quick, fast read. It is the first in a trilogy, that am eager to get my hands on. King always seems to truly excel with the short story form, and Gwendy’s Button Box is no different. It’s a perfectly wrapped tale and while I’m eager to explore the next two stories, and am curious about the character of Farris and where Gwendy’s life leads, it stands easily on its own.

Tinted with King’s horrific edge this could be a great introduction to King’s writing for a number of new readers. It’s fast, enjoyable, occasionally creepy, and has a character we can all relate to. There is terror to be found in the pages of this tale as well as wonder and mind-provoking questions and for me, that is what the best King stories have always delivered on.

Who is Mr. Farris? Will we find out over the course of the next two stories or is he yet another mysterious character that will haunt our dreams and nightmares?

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