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A Life of Bright Ideas    by Sandra Kring order for
Life of Bright Ideas
by Sandra Kring
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2012 (2012)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Childhood friends Evelyn (nicknamed Button) and Winnalee wrote a Book of Bright Ideas (extracts from which appear at the beginning of each chapter of this novel) before they were separated by Winalee's departure with her mother Freeda when Button was fourteen.

In 1970, Button's mother died from a lightning strike, for which Button has always blamed herself. Her grieving father has been reclusive ever since, leaving the care of his six-year-old son Robert (nicknamed Boohoo) to Button, her Aunt Verdella and Uncle Rudy, 'a farmer who knew the secrets of trees and seeds and wind and water every bit as well as my aunt Verdella knew the secret of how to love.'

Button lives in Grandma Mae's old house, opposite Verdella and Rudy's. She works in her mother's bridal shop, but hides her light under a bushel - her creative talent is wasted in the basic sewing work she does. She writes letters to Jesse, the boy she loved through high school, who is in Germany with the U.S. Army, and keeps the boy next door, Tommy, at a distance.

Then her old friend Winnalee comes back into Button's life and everything changes. Now a sixties flower child, Winalee goes braless, talks of Woodstock and free love and plants marijuana in the garden (Tommy helps Button get rid of it). Button and Winalee have their 'first fight ever' but soon get past it. Then Freeda shows up with Winalee's abandoned baby. Freeda and her attitude soon take on both family's messes - and they've been building up.

Of course, all these problems work out in the end, in this novel about how holding in dark secrets can damage individual and those around them. A Life of Bright Ideas is a frothy, quirky read immersed in the strength of community, and filled with tolerance and acceptance of one another's flaws. Enjoy it, and read Bright Idea #100 at the end - it offers wise life advice.

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