The Key to Everything – Valerie Fraser Luesse

The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse
Also by this author: Almost Home, Under the Bayou Moon
Published by Revell on June 2, 2020
Genres: Fiction
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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.

The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse is a book that reminds me of storytelling at its finest. The book isn’t full of suspense or thrills. There are no real plot twists or overly dangerous situations that make your heart leap into your throat. It’s a relaxed journey to adulthood for one Peyton Cabot, a fifteen-year-old son of a WWII veteran who spends more time with the bottle than he does with his son. The book follows his adventure to ride his bicycle all the way to Key West, Florida, to discover…what? Purpose? Answers? Love? Himself? He’s trying to figure it out himself.

This novel was different than what I’d usually read, but I enjoyed it. If I had to choose my favorite aspect of the story, I’d say it was the tone. I’ve read books that featured a “Southern twang” before and didn’t really like them, but with The Key to Everything the hints of Southern charm added quality and genuineness to the story that I think it needed.

Peyton comes across all sorts of people on his trek to Key West.  He learns something from each of them, and they likewise learn from him. There was only one character I didn’t like, but I think the author’s intention was for us to not like her. This book made me smile.  It did take a while for me to get into it, but once I adjusted to the author’s writing style, I was all in.  For most books I read, I quickly move on to another novel and often forget elements of past stories.  The Key to Everything is one that’s going to stick through me.  There is nothing about this particular novel I would change.  What was so unique about it was that it didn’t need the heart-pounding excitement.  Don’t get me wrong, it does have some thrilling elements; it’s not a lackadaisical walk in the park.  Peyton faces troubles and challenges along his route, but he has an incredible support network to assist him.

The Key to Everything is a novel you can read a chapter at night, and you’ll fall asleep with a smile on your lips. It’s exactly the kind of book you can use to wind down at the end of a stressful day.  This one took me a while to finish, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.  I savored the journey, and you will, too.