This is a book that I almost didn’t finish and I’m undecided whether I should have put it down earlier or not.
The Parking Lot Attendant is a fiction novel, a literary fiction novel that mostly made no sense. One good thing about finishing it, is that I can say that it could’ve been a much better read, but you can also see that as a negative as well. Ignorance is bliss.
This book follows a teenage girl, a first generation American, second generation Ethiopian, across the span of a few years, a time when she had a strange relationship with a middle-aged parking lot attendant. (There isn’t inappropriate sexual stuff, so calm down.) The novel opens with the heroine (whose name we never learn) and her father on a supposedly sovereign island off the coast of the US, with a population of Ethiopians and descendants who want to create a new country.
I found that aspect interesting. But then the novel changes perspective to years before the opening, in Boston, to tell the background of the heroine, how she was abandoned by her father, who then he comes back, only to have her mother leave her next. The heroine clearly has attachment issues and uses the parking lot attendant as a replacement father figure, but their strange relationship consists of weird conversations filled with patronizing insights made by Ayale, and unconditional acceptance by the heroine and other workers in the lot, his followers. Ayale is a cult leader, clearly up to something sinister, but we don’t find out what it is until the near end of the book. We also don’t return to the island until the last couple of chapters in the book.
Basically, the author presents this mystery in the beginning, then spends the majority of the plot bullshitting around, giving us a few meaningful, disjointed passages on the plight of immigrants and relationships across generations, with no real plot to connect the very beginning of the novel with the very end. I was bored. Though I did like the prose, in general, the last chapter. I just wish the rest of the novel had the same pace, excitement, and emotionality. Maybe an alternating would’ve made it more interesting. Who knows?
I’m not recommending The Parking Lot Attendant, but you do you.The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on 3/13/18
Source: Publisher, NetGalley
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A mesmerizing, indelible coming-of-age story about a girl in Boston's tightly-knit Ethiopian community who falls under the spell of a charismatic hustler out to change the world
A haunting story of fatherhood, national identity, and what it means to be an immigrant in America today, Nafkote Tamirat's The Parking Lot Attendant explores how who we love, the choices we make, and the places we’re from combine to make us who we are.
The story begins on an undisclosed island where the unnamed narrator and her father are the two newest and least liked members of a commune that has taken up residence there. Though the commune was built on utopian principles, it quickly becomes clear that life here is not as harmonious as the founders intended. After immersing us in life on the island, our young heroine takes us back to Boston to recount the events that brought her here. Though she and her father belong to a wide Ethiopian network in the city, they mostly keep to themselves, which is how her father prefers it.
This detached existence only makes Ayale’s arrival on the scene more intoxicating. The unofficial king of Boston’s Ethiopian community, Ayale is a born hustler—when he turns his attention to the narrator, she feels seen for the first time. Ostensibly a parking lot attendant, Ayale soon proves to have other projects in the works, which the narrator becomes more and more entangled in to her father’s growing dismay. By the time the scope of Ayale’s schemes—and their repercussions—become apparent, our narrator has unwittingly become complicit in something much bigger and darker than she ever imagined.