Gwendy’s Button Box

Gwendy's Button BoxGwendy's Button Box by Richard Chizmar, Stephen King
Series: The Button Box #1
Publisher: Cemetery Dance
Released: May 16, 2017
Pages: 175
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The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told... until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: "Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me."

On a bench in the shade sits a man in 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. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat...

Gwendy’s Button Box is a short story that for me almost epitomizes the expression “perfectly OK”. It’s perfectly fine. Just perfectly fine.

We get to meet Gwendy who in turn meets a man who gives her a box with buttons. The box seems to have unknown, yet tangible, powers. The box also has an effect on Gwendy’s life which is hard to pin down, but undoubtedly positive. Up to this point I’m all aboard. I like the mystery, I like the vagueness, and I like the character of Gwen. The quick introduction to the character, her surroundings, and the premise are great, and I’m excited to see what this build-up will lead to.

Unfortunately it doesn’t really lead anywhere.

The story just takes place. Events happen – some more mysterious than others – but nothing ever really gripped me. And then the story just ended, giving me a feeling of wasted potential.

I might be expecting a little too much of a story that’s only just over a hundred pages long, but I’ve seen, as King has shown, the ability short stories can have to grip a reader, and Gwendy’s Button Box just doesn’t quite live up to what I feel it could, and maybe should, be. I know that there is a longer sequel of sorts that might pick up the elements I liked about this book and do more with them. As for this story, it’s short enough that I’m fine with it, and entertaining enough to justify its length, but one could say that it didn’t quite push my buttons.

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