Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
It’s the August 22nd, 1974, and Gwendy Peterson is a chubby twelve-year-old determined to lose weight before changing schools. She goes daily to the metal stairs that lead up the rock face to Castle View, and climbs as fast as she can to burn off all the fat that plagues her nascent teenage consciousness.
It’s at the top that she first meets the mysterious Mr Richard Farris, who intrigues Gwendy with all he knows about her, and his peculiar mannerisms. Farris presents Gwendy with a beautiful but strange button box and declares that she must have it because she is ‘the one’. Gwendy is mystified but captivated by the entire idea and tentatively agrees to accept, on condition that she learn a little more about it.
The box has 8 buttons. There is one to represent each of the continents bar Antarctica. There is a red one for ‘Whatever you want’, and a black one that represents ‘Everything’. The box also has two levers, one at each end, which open corresponding drawers. In one drawer is always found another rare, mint, silver dollar worth a lot of money. The second always contains a new chocolate treat that reduces the appetite. Curious? So was Gwendy.
Farris leaves the box with its twelve-year-old charge with no further instructions other than to keep the box secret.
As Gwendy eats the chocolates and stashes the dollars, she finds her life improving dramatically. She loses weight as she grows tall and beautiful. She also notices other changes taking place in her life, but not directly to her. Her parents rekindle their dying romance, for example. Good fortune seems to find many within Gwendy’s orbit. It’s almost as if the box has a positive vibe that helps those fortunate enough to be in the vicinity of it keeper.
Yet the curious teenager, as she becomes, is so, so tempted to press the buttons just to see what will happen, ominous as the thought makes her feel. Gwendy learns a sore lesson when she eventually succumbs to temptation and presses the button for South America. It has disastrous consequences and Gwendy is distraught.
Yet life goes on and, as is the wont of teenage girls, Gwendy falls in love. Sadly she discovers that the box can’t solve all of life’s problems or protect everyone she loves. It is at the hands of a neighbourhood thug that Gwendy finds out just how powerful the box really is.
Gwendy’s Button Box is a beautifully paced, well written novella that lightly grabs the reader and won’t let go. The reader won’t mind. This book can, and most likely will, be read in one sitting. This is Stephen King at his very best and has his masterful prints all over it. Perhaps Richard Chizmar thought up the plot, but the style of writing is King.
For anyone interested in a good-natured, curious, engaging read, then Gwendy’s Button Box is the one you want. Even the title is appealing. Great plot. Great setting. Great characters. Great execution. Great book.
Sult scale rating: 8.5 out of 10. Highly recommended novella that should leave you with a satisfied smile on your face. You will want your own button box, but you can’t have mine.