As you know by now, I’m a sucker for Uncle Stevie. Anything he writes, I’ll read. Novel, short story, op-ed, tweets, collaborations…I’m there. That’s why I’m a Constant Reader.
This isn’t the first collaboration with another author that I’ve read by King. He wrote a few short stories with his son, Joe Hill that were pretty good (In the Tall Grass was legitimately terrifying). His book with Stewart O’Nan, Faithful, is probably my favorite non-fiction book of all time.
So, even though I had never heard of co-author Richard Chizmar, it didn’t really matter. I was going to read this sooner or later.
Set in the always-horrible town of Castle Rock, Maine, Gwendy’s Button Box is classic King. Gwendy Peterson is about to start 6th grade at the start of the story. Overweight and the butt of jokes among her classmates, Gwendy is taking matters into her own hands. She runs every day up a huge flight of stairs, called the Suicide Stairs, and little by little she can see the weight slowly dropping.
One day, when she reaches the top of the stairs, she is greeted by a strange man in a black suit and hat, who calls himself Richard Farris (hmmm…). Farris tells her he has something for her, and produces a beautiful mahogany box with 8 colored buttons on top, and two small levers on the side. Farris vaguely explains what the buttons do, and shows her how to use the levers…one produces a tiny (and delicious) chocolate animal that will supposedly curb Gwendy’s appetite, and one produces a mint-condition rare coin, each worth hundreds of dollars.
Gwendy is immediately drawn to the box, feeling that she and the box were destined for each other. Every day, she eats a chocolate. Gwendy’s whole life changes slowly…she’s skinny, beautiful, and popular. She has all As in school and is the fastest girl on the track team. Gwendy knows that the changes in her life are somehow related to the box, but as the years go by, she tries not to obsess about it too much.
But of course, this is Stephen King. Not everything about the box is great. Some truly awful things happen to Gwendy, and she knows the box is responsible for these events, too.
This is a super-quick read, and I enjoyed it. The co-writing was seamless — I’m not actually sure how they managed to collaborate, and it was hard to tell who wrote what. At times, I was genuinely scared for Gwendy and her family, because as any Constant Reader knows, when you introduce a character with the initials RF, he isn’t exactly going to be a good influence on the story.