Book Review: The Key to Everything

2 Jul

Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the heroic but reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from WWII a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon and distancing himself from his son. A tragic accident shows Peyton the depths of his parents’ devotion to each other but interrupts his own budding romance with the girl of his dreams, Lisa Wallace.

Struggling to cope with a young life upended, Peyton makes a daring decision: He will retrace a journey his father took at fifteen, riding his bicycle all the way to Key West, Florida. Part declaration of independence, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will bring him more than he ever could have imagined — namely, the key to his unknowable father, a reunion with Lisa, and a calling that will shape the rest of his life.

Through poignant prose and characters so real you’ll be sure you know them, Valerie Fraser Luesse transports you to the storied Atlantic coast for a unique coming-of-age story you won’t soon forget.

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.


My Impressions:

The first two books by Valerie Fraser Luesse were all I could hope for in novels that tell wonderful stories filled with engaging characters and a great sense of place and time. I chose The Key to Everything without even reading the blurb, that was how assured I was of liking it. And I did! In fact I loved it. I may even have a little book hangover — I just can’t let this book go. It gets my highly recommended rating.

The Key to Everything is a coming-of-age story set in 1947. This was a time of great hopes, but with the lingering aftereffects of war. I especially liked that Luesse set the novel as a journey in old Florida. While I grew up many years after this story is set, I did experience Florida before the advent of Disney. It was a time of small coastal towns, kitschy motels, and sometimes crusty fish camps. The book brought back those memories and more, with many things I didn’t know before. Peyton’s journey on the saddle of a bike allows the reader to experience the small things that made the Florida of that time special. The characters are wonderfully drawn — I came to love Peyton and all those he met along the way. Peyton is a remarkable character, fearless in his desire to find his own way. I loved how he learned about his father’s dreams and aspirations, along with his disappointments and compromises. This knowledge helped to determine Peyton’s own path. The Key to Everything is a quiet book, yet it has some very big moments that are not shouted, but seep into the reader’s heart. This beautifully told story will stay with me a very long time.  I also think that the novel would make a great choice for book clubs. I know I really want to talk about it!

I wish I could do more justice to this book. Just let me leave you with one more thought — read this book! You will be so glad you did.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Revell for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)


2 Responses to “Book Review: The Key to Everything”

  1. Mary July 2, 2020 at 9:24 am #

    I can’t wait to read this! Valerie’s book Almost Home, is one of my favorites. She is an excellent southern author.

    • rbclibrary July 2, 2020 at 4:01 pm #

      This is my favorite so far.

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