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Condominium Paperback – May 14, 2015
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About the Author
Daniel Falatko is a graduate of the MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Originally from Pennsylvania, he lives and works in New York City. Condominium is his first published novel.
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This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
Okay, we have Charles -- a worker bee in finance in some NYC firm, on the verge of a drug problem (well, maybe past the verge) -- and Sarah -- a worker bee in a small press, on the verge of actually working. Charles is making pretty good money, so they decide to buy a condo. They've been together for a few years now, and seem to be getting along okay, this seems like a good next step -- Sarah has dreams of a ring in the near future, and leaving workforce not too long after that (maybe even before her employer realizes that she doesn't do much).
The book follows them in the week following them "moving on up." Somehow, they seem to think that changing their address is going to change their lives. I mean, really, they're obsessed with this place. They can't stop talking or thinking about it.
I guess I should mention Charles' druggie friends, his co-worker that he's madly in lust with, the people at Sarah's work and her friends that she almost keeps in touch with, but...well, that's enough of them, really.
The most intriguing character is their creepy neighbor, Raymond. He's always around, he knows way too much about them, is possibly a peeping Tom, is a little too militant at cleaning the smoking area and claims to be a day trader (hard to tell how he fits all of that in, but it's explained eventually). He seems to have a thing for Sarah, which is pretty inexplicable.
The only one who seems less likely to be into Sarah is Charles. And you'd think that'd be an issue, but neither of them seems to think of that much.
Charles seems to have a healthy case of acrophobia, yet insisted on getting an apartment with a balcony and a great view. He can barely stand to be out there, and spends a lot of time working on overcoming it. He has a phobic attack on the balcony early on. Probably the best part of the book. It was enough to make you feel the same, and yet funny as you know what he's doing to himself. I'd have reacted the very same way - worse, actually -- no way would I have loved into that place.
At the same time, I spent a lot of time wishing he'd fall off the balcony and stop the mess.
Day by day things get worse as they unpack, get high, miss work, fight, and try to organize a housewarming party. Because, how else do you get to show off your flooring, your high ceilings, and your view?
The writing was good enough, the characters seemed pretty real -- I just couldn't understand why Falatko spent his time and ability on either.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for this post, which probably didn't work out the way he'd prefer.
CONDOMINIUM operates within a busy and competitive field itself, but while it might not shine the brightest I'm sure going to remember it for a long time. There was a satirical edge to Daniel Falatko's novel, but it sure did ring true.
It was not nearly as bad as the absurd blurb would indicate. The book takes place over the course of a week when Charles and Sara move in to their new condo, and the author does have some amusing insights into New York real estate, conspicuous consumption, income differentials, and what stories people tell themselves about who they are and how those delusions can become problematic. The writing is not bad -- it's not John Updike, but it's not bad. The central characters are well-developed, although some of the side characters are clearly cardboard, and the plotting needs work. I get what the author was going for with these random asides that peter out, but it doesn't quite work. I would give it three stars, except for my unhappiness with the ending (SPOILERS in the next paragraph) ...
The author does a very good job building a sense of unease throughout the book -- the relationship is failing, Sara is losing her job, there's an evil voodoo mask (little heavy-handed, that) and a scary balcony that Charles is afraid he'll fall off; there are creepy neighbors and unsettling interactions, drugs returning to now-clean Charles's life, with what felt like an accelerating race towards the housewarming party where all these threads would come together in catastrophe ... but instead we get a happy ending where everything works out fine. And nobody falls off the balcony. I was, honestly, incredibly disappointed; all of the dark foreshadowing and created unease pointed inexorably towards a tragic ending; instead, it's the ending of some entirely different book, where basically none of the raised problems are dealt with -- they're all just ignored, sometimes with a character thinking, "She decided not to worry about that anymore," -- and then everyone is happy watching the sunrise and glad it all worked out. It was an enormous letdown and ruined the rest of the book.