In 1961, Button and Winnalee became best friends. Two very different little girls, they were drawn together by life’s circumstances. Opposites attracting, they complimented each other. Together they began recording life lessons, titling it, “The Book of Bright Ideas”. The purpose was to learn from not only their mistakes, but from observing those of others.
It is now 1970, and the girls are reunited when Winnalee suddenly appears in the small northern Wisconsin town, again. Though grown, time and distance have not diminished their friendship. While Button remains cautious and reserved, Winnalee is still free-spirited and bold.
Button’s mother is now gone, killed in a freak accident. Her father has emotionally detached, isolating himself in guilt and grief. Aunt Verdella is helping to raise Button’s wild six year old brother. Together, the two friends
settle into the family home across the road from Button’s Aunt Verdella, the fractured family somehow stronger now.
Button is working in her mother’s bridal shop as a talented seamstress. Winnalee finds work at a local tavern with a bad reputation. Yet both girls are happy in finding their way together, again. Button is writing to a boy from high school, now serving overseas in the military. Winnalee has created a carefree social life through her job.
All seems bright until Winnalee’s mother suddenly comes to town, bringing with her a secret that changes everything. Families and friendships are tested. Everyone must face things hidden within themselves and those they love, in order to heal and move toward a better future.
Sandra Kring captures the spirit of the time period in both Button and Winnalee. Her writing of the events of the time: free love, war, women’s rights, and values are honest. She is sensitive in her portrayal of families dealing with death, abuse, and secrets within. A family is made up of flesh and blood, but connected by hearts. Absence can make hearts grow fonder, and time can make them grow stronger.
This book is both heartbreaking and an utter joy. You will laugh, you will cry, sometimes simultaneously. You will not forget the characters, their story, or Sandra Kring; nor should you.