A confession. I’ve had A Key to Treehouse Living by Elliot Reed on my TBR since December 2019. Consequently, when Nikki Griffiths got in touch to tell me about the 20th anniversary celebrations of A Key to Treehouse Living‘s publisher Melville House, I jumped at the chance to be part of the celebrations by reviewing the book at long last. I’m delighted to share that review today.
A Key to Treehouse Living was published by Melville House on 12th March 2020 and is available for purchase here.
A Key to Treehouse Living
An epic tale of boyhood from a unique and unforgettable new voice .
William Tyce is a boy without parents, left under the care of an eccentric, absent uncle. To impose order on the sudden chaos of his life, he crafts a glossary-style list, through which he imparts his particular wisdom and thoughts on subjects ranging from ASPHALT PATHS, CAMPFIRE and NIGHT RAT to MORTAL BETRAYAL, SANITY and REVELATION.
His improbable quest—to create a reference volume specific to his existence—takes him on a journey down the river by raft (see MYSTICAL VISION, see NAVIGATING BIG RIVERS BY NIGHT). He seeks to discover how his mother died (see ABSENCE) and find reasons for his father’s disappearance (see UNCERTAINTY, see VANITY). But as he goes about defining his changing world, all kinds of extraordinary and wonderful things begin to happen to him…
My Review of A Key to Treehouse Living
A personal alphabetical (ish) list.
If I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure what it is I’ve just read in Elliot Reed’s A Key to Treehouse Living as it has an unconventional structure that seems as if it’s a fairly random set of alphabetical entries but that hides a personal history that is affecting and engaging. This is a quirky, moving, insightful book that is part stream of consciousness and part highly controlled narrative. Early on William Tyce explains that alphabetical order sometimes isn’t right to be presented alphabetically and then goes on to prove it, and his logic is totally convincing so that A Key to Treehouse Living feels as if it educates the reader about William as well as entertains them.
It would almost be possible to read A Key to Treehouse Living as if it were a non-fiction book, dipping in at random, but that would undermine the opportunity to get to know William as effectively. From the very first entry, his narrative voice is clear and strong and by the end of the book the reader feels as if they have been on a journey of self-discovery with him. I thoroughly enjoyed the manner with which William’s life is drip fed to the reader, with quirky memories and what has happened to the uncle with whom he was left by his father, gradually revealed. The short entries add to the pace so that A Key to Treehouse Living is a book that seems to race along.
William displays the full gamut of emotions in his entries, and as a result he becomes clearer and clearer in the reader’s mind as a soul who is lost, grieving, bewildered and desperate for adult love and affection. Moreover, the reader comes to realise that William is intelligent, insightful and endearingly odd. He’s very vividly portrayed.
I found A Key to Treehouse Living warm, witty and hugely entertaining. It was also quirky, funny and surprisingly emotional. I’m so glad I finally got round to reading it.
About Elliot Reed
Elliot has lived many places and done different things for a living. His goal for a long time has been to write fiction that people want to read. He earned his MFA from the University of Florida. He published his first novel, A Key to Treehouse Living, in 2018. The novel is written as a series of brief, glossary-style entries that subtly build a story over time. He’s also published short stories, interviews, and essays, and believes there are many ways to write exciting stories that we’ve never heard before. He finds good fiction is usually both delightful and frightening.
For further information, visit Elliot’s website.
You might like to catch up with the other Melville House 20th anniversary celebrations too: