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A secret tore best friends Evelyn “Button” Peters and Winnalee Malone apart. Now, nearly a decade later, a secret brings them back together.
Nine years ago Button and Winnalee began recording observations in their Book of Bright Ideas, a tome they believed would solve the mystery of how to live a mistake-free life. Now it’s 1970, a time of peace, love, war, and personal heartbreak. Button’s mother is dead and her grieving father has all but abandoned his children. Quiet, thoughtful Button has traded college for a sewing job in her mother’s bridal shop to help her Aunt Verdella raise her whirlwind six-year-old brother. In Button’s free time, she writes letters to the boy she loved from afar through high school, hoping he will come to love her as more than a friend.
Then, like that magical Wisconsin summer of ’61, Button is greeted with the wild, gusty arrival of Winnalee. Now a beautiful flower child, Winnalee is everything Button is not. She’s been to Woodstock and enjoys “free love,” but their steadfast bond of friendship is tested as Button begins to notice the cracks in Winnalee’s carefree façade. And then Winnalee’s mother arrives with a surprise that Button never sees coming, and the fiery determination to put things right in both families once and for all.
In this tender novel set in 1955 Mill Town, Wisconsin, Sandra Kring explores the complicated bond between mothers and daughters, the pressure to conform, and the meaning of friendship and family.
Ten-year-old Isabella “Teaspoon” Marlene has been a handful ever since her mother, Catty, dumped her with an old boyfriend and ran off to Hollywood. Teaspoon fights, fibs, never stops singing, and is as unpredictable and fearless as a puppy off its leash. Still, Teddy Favors, a man who has taken his share of kicks, is determined to raise her right.
Teaspoon wants to be better for Teddy—even if that means agreeing to take part in a do-gooder mentorship program and being paired up with Brenda Bloom, the beautiful reigning Sweetheart of Mill Town. Against all odds, as the summer passes, this unlikely duo discover a special friendship as they face personal challenges, determined to follow their hearts instead of convention.
It’s while Brenda and Teaspoon are putting together the grandest show the Starlight Theater has ever seen that Catty returns to Mill Town, shattering illusions and testing loyalties. But by the final curtain call, one determined little girl shows an entire town the healing that can happen when you let your heart take center stage.
At twelve, Lucy Marie McGowan already knows she’ll be a psychologist when she grows up. And her quirky and conflicted family provides plenty of opportunity for her to practice her calling. Now Lucy, her “profoundly gifted” twin brother, Milo, her commitment-phobic mother, and her New Age grandmother are leaving Chicago for Timber Falls, Wisconsin, to care for her dying grandfather—a complex and difficult man whose failure as a husband and father still painfully echoes down through the years.
Lucy believes her time in the rural town where the McGowan story began will provide a key piece to the puzzle of her family’s broken past, and perhaps even reveal the truth about her own missing father. But what she discovers is so much more—a lesson about the paradoxes of love and the grace of forgiveness that the adults around her will need help in remembering if their family is ever to find peace and embrace the future.
By turns heart-wrenching and heart-mending, Thank You for All Things is a powerful and poignant novel by a brilliant storyteller who illustrates that when it comes to matters of family and love, often it is the innocent who force others to confront their darkest secrets.
The love of family. The heartbreak of war. The triumph of coming home.
1940. Rural Wisconsin. Sixteen-year-old Earl “Earwig” Gunderman is not like other boys his age. Fiercely protected by his older brother, Earwig sees his town and the world around him through the prism of his own unique understanding. He sees his mother’s sadness and his father’s growing solitude. He sees his brother, Jimmy, falling in love with the most beautiful girl in town. And while Earwig is unable to make change for customers at his family’s store, he is singularly well suited to understand what other people in his town cannot: that life as they know it is about to change; the coming war will touch them all.
For Jimmy will enlist in the military. And Earwig will watch his parents’ marriage buckle under the strain of a family secret. And when Jimmy returns–a fractured shadow of his former self–it is Earwig’s turn to care for him. His struggles to right the wrongs visited upon his revered older brother by war, women, and life are at once heartwarming and riotously funny. Their family and town irrevocably altered, Earwig and Jimmy fight to find their own places in a world changed forever.