top of page
  • Writer's pictureCaroline

The Key to Everything

Photo by Daniel Williams

About the Book

"Promise me you'll never come back here, Peyton. It's too much, it's just way too much."

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 World War II 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.

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 from St. Augustine, Florida, all the way to Key West. 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 longed-for reunion, and a calling that will shape the rest of his life.

My Thoughts

This book is like dark chocolate - bitter, sweet, and comforting.

I enjoyed Valerie Luesse's previous book, Almost Home, and The Key to Everything did not disappoint with its portrayal of the South and 1950s Florida culture. Peyton is a servant-hearted, gentle teenager -- honestly, so refreshing! His journey to deal with hard circumstances and pursue his love, Linda, was so pure.

I appreciated the secondary thread of Peyton's mother and father's passionate love story. It seems like parents' love stories are often completely ignored in the shadow of the children's stories. It was a nice change to retrace their steps while Peyton and Linda are discovering their own.

At times the meandering nature of the story felt slow and predictable, so if you're in the mood for a page-turner, this one probably isn't for you.

But if you love peaceful celebrations of the heartbreaking and hope-filled moments of life, and would enjoy watching a kind teenager find himself and connect with his father's past, then The Key to Everything is for you. It's well-rounded, with great dialogue, and leaves you with a smile on your face. Just like dark chocolate.

4 out of 5 stars


I received this book from the publisher and happily provided my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not required to post a positive review.

bottom of page