Our unnamed narrator in an unnamed Eastern European city has agreed to take on what should be a simple task: house-sit an apartment and two cats while his friend Oskar is away in L.A. taking care of his divorce settlement. Easy, right? Unfortunately, Oskar is anything but easygoing. He has left a frenzy of ultra-specific notes all around the apartment, detailing how to care for everything in sight (right down to the CD player) and giving stern warnings (the piano says "Do Not Play"), particularly about his beloved wooden floors. Well, predictably, things do not go well. What starts as a simple wine stain on the floor (oh no!) soon threatens to take over our hero's mental health.
The novel's dry wit is charming and engaging. I particularly liked how Oskar, who is absent from the apartment, is actually more present than our narrator who is living there. His presence is everywhere, from the notes, to the obsessive orderliness, to his favourite music. His apartment reflects his personality so much that it starts to overtake the narrator's own personality (it's no accident that we never learn the narrator's name, or even the name of the city. All there is Oskar...well, and his cats). It's like Oskar says, First you make your room and then the room makes you.