Travels and Travails of Small Minds by Daniel Falatko

Travels and Travails of Small MindsTravels and Travails of Small Minds

by Daniel Falatko

eARC, 252 pg.
The Ardent Writer Press, 2017

Read: September 20 – 21, 2017

“I feel like I’m stuck in a mystery novel written by an unhinged individual, Amy.”

There’s a lot of truth to that lament Nathan makes to his girlfriend, Amy. In the same conversation, she had a different take on it:

“Mystery Englishmen? Ever-evolving eccentric casts of characters? Intricate layers of plot involving absolutely nothing? Two unaware and wayward employees leading the story? Nathan, you are living in a Wes Anderson film. And I’m not sure if I like it. You’re definitely more Life Aquatic than Rushmore at this point.”

There’s a lot truth to that, too. At the same time, neither of them is quite right (and please, don’t go looking for a Wes Anderson/unhinged mystery writer kind of book, you won’t get it. But you may get something that appeals to someone who’d like that kind of book). Just these commentaries on Nathan’s life during this novel shows you just how strange this is.

I don’t want to say there isn’t a plot — there is one; nor do I want to say that it’s not important, or nonsensical — there is a good amount of sense and it is a pretty good story; but compared to the experience of spending time with Nathan, his friends and colleagues, as well as those he meets over the course of the novel outweighs the story.

You’ve got Nathan; his girlfriend, Amy; his boss Dr. Behr, an elderly gentleman who just might be the living incarnation of “eccentric”; his coworker, Edward, who has spent far too many years working for Dr. Behr; and Nathan’s neighbor, who seems to do little other than use recreational pharmaceuticals. Throw in the study of a beatnik novelist of dubious quality, the attempted illegal eviction of a young woman, and some strange British citizens, and then step back and watch the lunacy begin. There’s a real estate deal at the core of this — which allows Falatko to indulge his fixation on NYC rental properties (and seals my conviction that I’ll never move there) — the sheer number of things that are wrong with the deal and that can go wrong with it. And here we are, proof that I can’t talk about this book in a way that makes a whole lot of sense.

This is a funny book, but not a comedy. It’s absurd in the best sense. It’s a wild ride, with a very human — and relatable center. Relatable might not be the best word, because I can’t imagine that any reader will have an experience like it. But even at the strangest moments, you’ll find yourself nodding with Nathan’s actions and reactions, saying to yourself, “yeah, I can see why he’d do that.” Even the conclusion that the plot careens to — for most of the book you’d say that wouldn’t work at all, but by the time it happens, it seems pretty perfect.

The illustrations are a nice touch — I don’t know that I needed them, and I don’t know that they really added all that much. At the same time, I enjoyed them. At what point was it decided that only kids could use a picture every now and then in their books?

I wasn’t a fan of Falatko’s previous novel, Condominium, but I thought it did display an element of talent. Travels and Travails put a lot more on display, and kept me entertained and engaged (and frequently smiling) throughout the novel. Although, I should note that I also spent a good deal of time wondering what I’d just read and why — but I was having such a good time that I really didn’t care about the answers to those questions. You won’t read many books like this one, but you’ll wish you could.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion and participation in this book tour. I just wish I had something more coherent to say about it.


3.5 Stars


Book Spotlight: Travels and Travails of Small Minds by Daniel Falatko

Welcome to our Book Tour stop for Travels and Travails of Small Minds. Along with this blurb about the book, my take on the book will be posted in a little bit.

Book Details:

Book Title:  Travels and Travails of Small Minds
Author: Daniel Falatko
Details: 252 pages with 10 interior illustrations
Publisher: The Ardent Writer Press
Release date: October 1, 2017

About the Book:

Nathan is not ambitious, and he is perfectly happy doing nothing at the dusty and cluttered properties office of his boss, Dr. Behr, a quirky ex-literature professor pushing 80.

But things are about to get tossed in the air as Nathan uncovers a mysterious plan of Behr’s to oust one of his
renters for what appears to be a substantial but ill-gotten profit. Behr recruits his slacker employee to help in the plot, but as Nathan questions motives and discovers secrets, it is clear that Nathan might be in for surprises of his own.

About the Author:

Daniel Falatko is the author of a previous novel, Condominium. He is a graduate of the MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. He lives in New York City.

Condominium by Daniel Falatko

Revised for clarification thanks to a helpful comment from Bookstooge.


by Daniel Falatko

Kindle Edition, 264 pg.
CCLaP Press, 2015

Read: May 17 – 18, 2016

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.


2 1/2 Stars