The Gwendy Peterson trilogy was conceived by Richard Chizmar, a writer and fanzine publisher who is friends with Stephen King. It began as the story of a bullied girl in 1974 who went on to become a famous writer and U.S. congresswoman in 1999; later, King added his touch, and by 2026, Gwendy becomes a senator and astronaut. In short, it is the story of a 12-year-old girl from rural America who starts with disadvantages but ends up succeeding. King adds his touch with references and developments within his narrative universe, the Kingverse, which he created throughout his fifty-year writing career.
The years mentioned are when the events take place, and the novels were actually published in 2017 (1st, “Gwendy’s Button Box“), 2019 (2nd, “Gwendy’s Magic Feather“), and 2022 (3rd, “Gwendy’s Final Task“). All three novels have been worldwide commercial successes. Yet, they are more than that, especially the last one.
The story revolves around a box that a man entrusts to Gwendy in 1974 for several years. On the lid are eight buttons, six for Earth’s continents, one red button that grants wishes, and one black button that can destroy everything (meaning both the Kingverse and beyond). The box also has two levers that open drawers containing 1891 silver dollars and gummy candies.
With some of the silver dollars, Gwendy pays for her college education, which her parents could not afford, and with the candies, she transforms her body from an overweight, bespectacled child to the captain of the track team. She also cures her mother of cancer.
Pressing the buttons is a bit riskier. Gwendy does it once in the first book, fearing she killed 900 cult members. She does it again in the third book, disintegrating the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Others who have had the box have done worse (such as unleashing the COVID-19 pandemic) and have suffered severe consequences like asylum commitments and suicides, often involving their family members.
Regardless, the man trusts Gwendy and returns the box to her even when she begins to show signs of dementia after 2023. By this time, she has become a U.S. senator and can be sent to an orbiting space station and then deep space, where the box can no longer cause harm.
The last novel is a marvel. The elderly Gwendy, now 64 years old, forgets words due to her early-stage dementia but still faces both natural and supernatural adversaries (similar to those in King’s “Hearts in Atlantis” and the “Dark Tower” series, wearing improbable neon yellow overcoats and driving massive green and purple cars).
These villains find a way to kill Gwendy’s husband, who had gone to Derry, Maine, where a clown roams. Here, there are ripples in the Kingverse because the clown should have been destroyed in 1985, as King himself recounted in “It”… so what is it still doing around in 2026?
In summary, everything is connected. Stephen King’s career has opened windows to other worlds that are haunting and obsessive. Perhaps they want, as they say, to enter our world. Perhaps we ordinary humans defend ourselves from them by taking refuge in the dementia that makes us forget words and names… and even relatives, who we may save by not thinking about them and thus not giving the villains in yellow overcoats a way di locating them using our thoughts as a compass.