Greg Baxter adds a layer of meteorological and existential permafrost to The Apartment, a short novel of 21st-century expat anomie. Baxter refrains from naming the narrator or the exact location of his self-assigned exile, but the city (possibly Germanic) is undeniably cold, austere and politically inhospitable to an American whose bearing reveals his military service and whose wallet contains the spoils of a lucrative post-discharge stint as a contractor in Iraq. If it weren't for the graciousness of his simple hoteliers, and the cheerful guidance of Saskia, the philosophically inclined young woman who takes him on as a project, our narrator would be in danger of being frozen out.
The Apartment adheres to the narrator's immediate sensory perceptions interspersed with flashbacks from Iraq and home. The plot, such as it is, examines the byplay between Saskia and the narrator as they collaborate on his apartment search (hence the title). Is Saskia donating her weekend to the lonely American's quest for expatriate shelter because she cares for him, or is she feeding off the vicarious thrill of viewing expensive, centrally located apartments she could never afford? Their relationship may be a metaphor for the U.S.'s post-Iraq reputation abroad, but the writing focuses most tightly on the narrator's struggle to "embalm" his morally arid past inside the esthetic details of her icy city. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts