A Life of Bright Ideas
In friendships, there’s usually a leader and a follower. Such is the friendship of Winnalee Malone and Button Peters. Winnalee was the adventurous one who blew into Button’s life in 1961 in The Book of Bright Ideas. She left Button with her book of bright ideas (“Bright Idea #10: Never eat cotton candy in the rain”) and the memory of what it was like to have a best friend. Almost 10 years later, Button is still living a quiet life in her small Wisconsin town, where the most daring thing she has done is move from her widowed father’s home into her late grandmother’s house, to live on her own away from her still grieving father. As she lives across the street from her aunt and uncle, this is not as risky as it seems. Much to Button’s delight, Winnalee comes back. But, what was brave and adventurous in the child is now reckless and irresponsible in the adult, and Button finds her enchantment with her old friend tested.
I lost an entire day to this book. I sat down to start it and could not get up until I’d finished it. Kring creates a fully realized world. I knew exactly what Button’s small town was like from the mean busybody to the love that Button doesn’t see right in front of her. It’s 1970, so drugs, hippies, and the war play a role but, as in Brigadoon, they don’t touch the characters the reader cares about too sharply, and this is not a bad thing. Instead, the characters’ responses are to each other and their relationships rather than to more external forces. Like Button, I was alternately exasperated with and charmed by Winnalee, and, like Winnalee, I wanted Button to come out of her shell and enjoy her life. Please, Sandra Kring, write a third book about these friends!