The Button Collector, by Elizabeth Jennings is a book that I enjoyed from the first page to the last. From buttons to memories, the stories that are woven are reflective of how an item can spark a memory.
The buttons that are contained within a jar, left to Caroline Tilgham, by her deceased mother are a metaphor for life lived and the choices one makes during their lifetime, choices that caused consequences a person might wish to forget. Memories often fade with time, and one incident can spark long-hidden truths and moments we choose not to remember.
As Caroline empties the jar of buttons, the splash of shapes and colors causes her to reflect upon her life, from childhood to adulthood. Each button she picks up brings her back in time to places of joy and to places of sadness, to places of jealousy and places of contentment. Each button has a story of its own, and as Caroline remembers the environment surrounding each button, she is confronted with her past, and the barriers she erected in order to suppress pain. She is faced with the necessities of material conservation and emotional conservation.
Times were not always easy, and her mother’s sewing, repairing, and recycling reinforced the hard moments of Caroline’s life. The sewing also cemented the necessity of thriftiness her mother displayed. Thriftiness often turned habitual, and even when it wasn’t necessary, it was a force of her mother’s that loomed strongly within Caroline’s life. It carried through to her adulthood, and until that day she unleashed the buttons, which in turn opened the memories she had locked inside her.
The individual stories are linked through familial gatherings, family dynamics, and family events that span decades. Each story is an important part of the entire circle, as slices of life are set before the reader. Jennings has masterfully combined story details through her vivid word-images, and incorporates the stories into a collective entirety that completes Caroline’s cycle of memories.
I enjoyed reading The Button Collector, and the way each one was preceded by a vivid word-painting of a button, which in turn had its own story behind it, bringing back a remembrance of a moment in time. The details are well portrayed and strong, and Jennings writing defines the visuals excellently. This reader could see the events clearly through the strength of the writing.
The stories were filled with life and were not lackluster. There is foundation that links them together. Sometimes a person needs to reconnect with their past in order to connect with the present, no matter how painful it might be.
I like to read books on memory, memory that evokes the ups and downs of life within a familial environment. I like stories that evoke feelings, stories that are sparked through an inanimate object, and stories that cause the primary character to reflect on the past. I recommend The Button Collector, by Elizabeth Jennings. There is a story within the pages, that I believe, every one can relate to.
I want to thank Elizabeth Jennings for my Advanced Review Copy (ARC).