Keys to an Empty House

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Elihu Goulding, erstwhile novelist and current recluse, has just moved into an old house in New York. Its most distinctive features are the forest green front door and the fact that he will be able to live alone in it. Elihu is a man content with the music of Handel and his own thoughts for company, a fact that is driven home by the first several chapters. In them, he moves through the house, settling in and making it into a home, albeit a very solitary one. Not much really happens beyond observations and reminiscences.

Then his son appears on his doorstep.

The son’s existence is not a surprise. Every now and then, the boy’s mother would send Elihu a photograph documenting his growth: nine times in all. Elihu has, in turn, sent child support checks. It’s his sole contribution as a father, besides the genetic material. What more could be asked for?

A great deal. At least, that’s what Elihu’s son argues.

The book is written in a simple yet poetic style, which I enjoyed a great deal at the beginning. As it went on, however, the book began to wear on me. It wasn’t the style that bothered me, that felt perfectly fitting for the book and the themes it explored. The characters didn’t wear on me either. While I wished Elihu’s son Ethan might have gotten more depth of characterization, on the whole, the characters were interesting and compelling. What took away from my interest in the book was the tone.

Keys to an Empty House begins in an observant, reminiscent manner, and it never lets up from that. The book is deeply cerebral, delving into Elihu’s thoughts for long paragraphs during and after every moment of action. Between this and the fact that it is less than two hundred pages long, not much happens. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s merely a matter of taste. (And for what it’s worth, I very much enjoyed the ending.)

Keys to an Empty House is the sort of book that I think will most appeal to older readers, people who enjoy when books take their time, even the short ones. At its best, it is touching and elegiac, mysterious and a little mournful. I may not have personally enjoyed the book, but I could see that it is well-written. I very much hope it finds its audience, for it richly deserves one.

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Star Count 4/5
Format Trade
Page Count 214 pages
Publisher Plum Bay Publishing, LLC
Publish Date 05-Apr-2022
ISBN 9781734884838 Buy this Book
Issue April 2022
Category Modern Literature