Remainder is a super weird book. And it’s not a book that immediately came to mind when we started talking about houses. But then I was staring at my bookshelf, feeling like I knew, just knew, that at some point I had read a book about the perfect house, a house where everything was just so, where everything was choreographed down to the moment… and then I remembered Remainder.
The nameless main character in Tom McCarthy’s novel has just won himself an enormous settlement—8 and a half million pounds—after some unidentified object fell out of the sky and onto his head. And when the book opens, this guy has no idea what to do with all that money. But then he finds himself at a party in a friend’s apartment, and he looks up at the wall, and he sees a large crack down the side. And he’s overcome with intense déjà vu and a web of connected sense memories: the smell of liver cooking, the sound of a piano. He realizes that this moment is familiar—that, in fact, it is the most familiar and Real moment of his life.
So the man pours his giant sum of cash into recreating that moment so that he can live it on an infinite loop. He builds an apartment building just so. He hires a woman to live in the downstairs apartment and cook liver. He hires a man to play the piano upstairs. He creates a house that lives up to the ideal in his mind—and then realizes that it isn’t enough, and things spin out of control.
Like I said, this is a super weird book. It’s explicitly philosophical, and sometimes that makes it feel distant and abstract. (I mean, the protagonist doesn’t have a name. Come on.) But the way it deals with the idea of creating a home and feeling connected to the world through a sense of place is fascinating and trippy, in a good way.