T.F. Torrey: Things Worth Reading

Small Apartments by Chris Millis

from T.F. Torrey's Reviews

Quirky Goodness

[ Cover of Small Apartments by Chris Millis ] Franklin plays the alphorn and dreams of Switzerland. His crazy brother sends him fingernail clippings in the mail. One of his neighbors is a forgetful pot-head, the other a gruff busybody who doesn’t miss anything. Across the street live a mother and her fifteen-year-old daughter, whom he likes to watch from his window, but none of these are Franklin’s real problem. His real problem is that his landlord is dead, laid out on the linoleum of his kitchen, and Switzerland seems farther away all the time.

Small Apartments, by Chris Millis, captures the reader with the dead landlord on the kitchen floor and Franklin in his underwear, and it only gets stranger from there. As we learn more about Franklin’s life and how he has come to have a dead landlord in his kitchen, we are compelled to keep reading, wondering how in the world everything might work out fine. Millis projects a wistful sadness throughout the book, and even the funny parts seem like laughing through the pain. Far from making the reader want to put the book aside, however, the gloomy mood creates a sympathy for Franklin, and a hope that the book will end happy for him, in some degree, anyway. The direness of his situation generates real interest in how the author will bring this about, and the pages keep turning.

From a writer’s perspective, Small Apartments could serve as a textbook for writing a novel in three days. Looking at it from a high level, it seems evident that Millis sketched the characters and developed the arc of scenes and chapters before starting the competition, then used his writing time to race through the text, allowing quirky tangents to come up when the muse moved him. The process resulted in a solid work that feels larger than it is, with interesting characters on a strange and unforgettable ride. It’s the kind of book that makes a writer think a-ha, so that’s how it’s done.

Small Apartments won the 23rd International 3-Day Novel-Writing Contest, and deservedly so. It has unusual and interesting characters, a solid plot, clever twists, and a quirky goodness all the way through. I have yet to see a 3-Day Novel Contest winner that I did not like, and this is no exception. Don’t miss it.