Greg Baxter's memoir A Preparation for Death (2010) details the writer's expatriation to Ireland from America and the piecing together of a fractured life. His debut novel, The Apartment, explores a day in the life of an Iraq war veteran seeking shelter[mdash] and a certain truth.
The Story: In a European city, a 41-year-old Iraq war veteran[mdash]both city and narrator remain unnamed[mdash] seeks to escape his life as a military contractor with the help of a young woman known as Saskia, whom he met in a museum. The soldier's goal is to settle down[mdash]"I wanted to live in a cold city. I couldn't say precisely why I picked this one"[mdash]but his thoughts suggest a deeper, perhaps darker purpose for his wandering. Less about the soldier's physical experience and more about his relationship to the world after his proximity to war, the single day encompassed in his narrative is punctuated by intimate looks into the man's mind: "You plummet through cloud and wind and a diminishing light toward a darkness you never reach, and which, anyway, vanishes as the mind stabilizes, and the outer shell of self reconstitutes, and life continues." And it does.
Twelve. 208 pages. $24. ISBN: 9781455574780
NY Times Book Review
"Baxter, whose only previous book is a work of nonfiction, A Preparation for Death, which details his implosion and rebirth as a writer and a person, has written a novel of subtle beauty and quiet grace; I found myself hanging on every simple word, as tense about the consequences of a man finding an apartment as if I were reading about a man defusing a bomb. ... [The Apartment] is one of the best novels I have read in a long time." STACEY D'ERASMO
"Light in plot and action, The Apartment succeeds as a novel of intense introspection, similar in style and substance to Teju Cole's Open City. ... About one quarter into the book, Saskia recalls her father saying the function of a civil engineer is to 'ease the flow of human misery,' and that is this narrator's main task: easing his own misery by examining his own life and its truths." JOSEPH PESCHEL
"The Apartment proved to be a quiet and powerful read through and through. ... Greg Baxter has written a big book in a lean one, and he has written a book where everything is happening while at the same time nothing is happening." ELLIOTT ACKERMAN
"The Apartment, Baxter's debut novel, is a compelling but contained work, one you can...