Nine-year old Ellis is terrified of spiders to the point that his mind will freeze and shut down if one touches him. Unfortunately for Ellis his dad has moved him and his sister Chrissie into a crumbling old house that appears to be haunted by spiders, they're everywhere. Ellis is also haunted by his lack of knowledge about his deceased mother. His dad Denny refuses to talk about her, meanwhile Ellis' sister Chrissie compulsively dates and wise Aunt Mafi has moved in to run the house.
To reduce Ellis' fear of spiders his dad convinces him that he has made a truce with the spiders to leave him alone, but in return Ellis has to promise to learn more about them. If you're scared of spiders this is great book to read to get over your fear of them as the author shares his extensive and fascinating knowledge of arachnids.
Ellis is an immediately endearing character; he has a habit of saying out loud what he is thinking about half way through the sentence. This results in one of the most comical first date conversations that I have ever read.
Although there are plenty of laughs in this book there are darker moments too as Ellis struggles to build a relationship with his dad as an adult. Ellis is a dreamer and he tends to drift into situations. He finds it difficult to commit to relationships because he hasn't had one with his mother in any sense, not even one built on her memory and this has a profound impact on him. While father and son can some to a truce over the spiders they cannot form one over the woman who haunts both their lives.
Denny clearly loves his family but he is broken by grief. Due to what happened with his wife he is terrified of losing his family and this makes him say and do things that he cannot explain to his son, but they are out of love and strong desire to protect him. Denny finds it difficult to let go as Ellis grows up. Ellis, naturally, rebels.
This engaging coming of age novel highlights how death, grief and secrets can tear a father and son apart, and how a finely spun thread of love, mutual understanding and acceptance can bring them together again.