A Key to Treehouse Living by Elliot Reed

My thanks to the publisher Melville House for sending me a copy for review. This review forms my honest opinion.


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.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time meets Huckleberry Finn in this unique literary adventure from young, talented debut novelist Elliot Reed, who received his MFA from the University of Florida in Gainesville and is currently living in Spokane, Washington.


Well. This was an unusual read! The story of William Tyce, as told through a glossary of terms. It’s weird, it’s innovative and although it won’t be for everyone, I was impressed with just how well the essence of William came through.

This novel took me entirely out of my comfort zone, and it did take a little while to settle into it. However, each glossary item, in its quirky, stream of consciousness style reveals tidbits of information. It requires the reader to pieces elements of the story together, and in all honesty I’m very glad I was reading a paperback copy so I could flip back and factcheck with ease. I liked the way it played with the idea of a narrative, and enjoyed the way in which it challenged me as a reader.

For all of this, it was a startlingly quick read. Each item within the ‘glossary’ is pretty short, which is always a way to entice me to ‘read just one more’ late at night. William is likeable and I felt tremendous sympathy for him. The whole book felt like a desperate attempt for him to make sense of his own life and where he fit into the often crazy world around him.

The main thing that A Key to Treehouse Living does so well is the characterisation of William. Although the narrative is non-linear and the structure is completely different to the norm, I found that who he is came through very strongly. He is front and centre, with others playing only bit parts where necessary in his life.

My only niggle with the book was that I felt that the story was sometimes a little lost and confused amidst a huge amount of information. I think that perhaps it is a book that warrants a second read and further study, as I’m sure there is much I missed and failed to connect, most especially when I first began reading, as initially, as I mentioned above, it took me entirely out of my comfort zone and it was quite an overwhelming experience.

A Key to Treehouse Living is brave, bold and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It won’t appeal to everyone, but if you’re a little bit daring and enjoy the experimental, I highly recommend.

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