Follow the unusual life and wisdoms of parentless William Tyce
as he shares his poignant adventures in this fictional A-Z coming-of-age compendium.
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 MULLET to MORTAL BETRAYAL, NIHILISM 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 happen to him.
I’m going to be upfront from the start and say that this novel was different, it may not appeal to some as the way it was written took a little getting used to. Once you got into the swing of the narrative you were in for a surprising and sometimes emotion filled story of a young teenager.
Unlike other novels his story wasn’t all laid out for us, Reed needed his reader to do a little bit of work, to read between the lines as snippets of Williams story unravelled.
The narrative read like a dictionary, as Reed took us on an alphabetical journey of words. Words that had a meaning, a glimpse into an event, a memory or a part of Williams life. In some cases they were mere observations as William took in his surroundings, as he spent carefree days with his best friend Ned building treehouses in the local park.
What we did learn was that William’s parents were not around, his guardian an uncle who lived in a mansion, and gambled his life away. You got the feeling that William was lost, no structure, no guidelines, a life of supposed freedom when he perhaps wanted love, roots and role models.
As we descended to the latter end of the alphabet you sensed subtle changes, a big shift in Williams life, one that was not necessarily good. It filled me with sadness, anger with his parents, his uncle, and authority that this once gentle, nature loving boy has been cast adrift forgotten.
You forgot about the structure, but admired Reed’s unique and clever structure, the use of his narrative, that somehow conveyed emotion, tenderness, that cloaked Williams struggle to survive beneath.
You had to assume a lot, almost like imagining, your own story and the direction it would take. It was for this reason that I loved this novel, for its unique and understated approach, for an author who was willing to take a risk and most of all for William, a truly wonderful character .
I would like to thank Melville House for a copy of A Key To Treehouse Living to read and review and to Nikki Griffiths for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Elliot Reed received his MFA from the University of Florida in Gainesville and is currently living in Spokane, Washington.