Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: "Care of Wooden Floors" by Will Wiles

Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles is so much better than it’s title suggests. It is an ironic title, but gives no indication for the level of nefarious detail that lies hidden within its pages. I have been eyeing this book for a while, with its slick, understated cover and a story that lends itself to many dark treats. But despite those tasty bitter morsels that lie hidden in this book, this is a very relatable book, with a plot setup that will be instantly recognizable to anyone with a friend like the one our unnamed narrator has: a person whose perfectionist tendencies and finicky habits seem to bleed over from there personal lives into other people’s as well, affecting them in bad ways that the other person would never realize, because they are too caught up in their own world and their own rules to pay attention to the feelings and needs of anyone else. Every person has a friend like that, and if you don’t, you just might be that person who unknowingly causes misery on others. It is a cool niche that this book carves out that I didn’t even begin to think about until this book brought it up. But despite that, this book is also very entertaining in a way that makes it perfect for beaches or long airplane rides. I was able to finish it in two days without breaking a sweat, and I’m sure a reader with more endurance could finish this book in a matter of hours. The narrator remains unnamed, but his source of pain does not. He is housesitting in an unnamed Central European town for his friend Oskar, a semi-famous composer who is known for, even back when he and the narrator were in college together, for how much of a perfectionist he was, going so far as to have nervous breakdowns when his bottle of vodka was moved from the freezer to the fridge. Oskar is having problems in his marriage, and needs to go to America and asks our narrator to watch over it.  But despite his misgivings, the narrator accepts the offer, seeing it as a way to escape the doldrums of his and work on the novel he has been meaning to write forever. Everything is going smoothly, with Oskar’s two cats being taken care of, and a eerily specific set of notes placed around the house letting the narrator know what he must do to maintain the irreplaceable wooden floors among other things. But once the narrator spills wine on the floor, leaving a stain, all hell breaks loose. It is cool how Wiles creates tension out of the anger and fear the narrator feels, anger at Oskar’s brutal dictums, as the notes take on a rather frightening tone as they are found in odd places, and fear at what Oskar might do if he finds out what kind of damage has been caused. Despite most of the action taking place within the confines of a luxury apartment, you’d be hard-pressed to find any other novel that creates as much suspense from everyday events such as this one.

Rating: 5/5

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