The Button Collector by Elizabeth Jennings


On a gray day at a gritty flea market, Caroline Tilghman stumbles upon an unlikely treasure—jars and jars of buttons in a dazzling kaleidoscope of colors.

Caroline is reminded of something she has made herself forget—she too has a jar of buttons, an inheritance from her mother, which Caroline has put on the back of a shelf, out of sight, out of mind, out of her life.

That night, Caroline takes the jar down from the shelf. Intending only to look at the buttons, she opens the lid . . . and pours out her family’s secrets.

THE BUTTON COLLECTOR unfolds with a series of vignettes in which each button reveals a piece of the complicated history of Caroline’s family. A tragic accident forever alters the relationship between Caroline, her mother Emma, and her cousin Gail. Caroline sifts through the joys and anguishes of the past, bringing both herself and the reader to the realization that memories—like buttons—can sometimes be used to fasten together something we have left undone by mistake.

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The premise is original: a jar of buttons prompts memories, each one revealed in a brief, discrete story; the execution, full of sincerity, caressing details until they combine into a world; the result, a lovely, shifting kaleidoscope of Southern mores and domestic lives which contain some truth for all of us. I’ll never again look at an unusual button without imagining its history.
— Susan Vreeland, bestselling author of GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE and CLARA AND MR. TIFFANY
I loved the idea of this from the first, loved it as it progressed from chapter to chapter, and love it even more as a completed book. Beautifully written and deeply moving, these several stories form one story whose center is love—and a woman named Emma.
— Ann B. Ross, author of the MISS JULIA books
Elizabeth Jennings is a master of story weaving. She leads you seamlessly through time and memory to uncover the secrets, joys and heartaches that linger across one family’s lineage, drawing them together and keeping them at odds. The Button Collector calls its reader to love, understand and forgive his or her own family even as its own characters struggle to do the same. This book illuminates the simple magic of memory and family and the depths to which those quiet moments haunt us and lift us up ... It reminds us that every story of family, love and loss—even our own—is worth telling.
— Amy Willoughby-Burle, author of OUT ACROSS THE NOWHERE and editor of BLUE LOTUS REVIEW