Key to Everything

Written by Valerie Fraser Luesse
Review by Fiona Alison

Set in 1947, The Key to Everything is a story about the freedom to pursue one’s dreams. Fifteen-year-old Peyton Cabot loves to watch the world speeding past, whether from a plane, a boat or a bicycle. That is what freedom is to him and mirroring his recently deceased father’s footsteps by cycling the length of Florida is his tribute. He begins his journey in St. Augustine with his Aunt Gert, whose whole-hearted trust and encouragement give Peyton the strength to learn self-sufficiency and self-reliance, in order to fulfill the odyssey of a lifetime.

Several aspects make this a poignant coming-of-age expedition. One is that Peyton works his way through his grief by touching places his father had been so many years before. He doesn’t always know the places but feels them through his parents’ love for each other. Another is the diverse cast of characters he meets, many of whom become more like family than his Cabot relatives. He races down Daytona Beach long before they thought of a speedway; passes nights in local jails, firehalls, and army bases. Despite being so young, Peyton is dependable and believes in people, and is willing to help, wherever needed, to work his way to Key West where he will reunite with the love of his life. He turns his hand to anything and the skills he picks up help him to move with confidence into the next leg of his journey.

This is a thoughtful look at the innate goodness of people, and friendship pulled from unlikely circumstances. In a time when we most need to feel the kindness of others who look for nothing in return, this is an uplifting journey, told by an author with a clear understanding of human compassion.