Summary and book reviews of The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat

The Parking Lot Attendant

A Novel

by Nafkote Tamirat

The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat X
The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Mar 2018, 240 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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.


On my fifteenth birthday, my father gave me permission to travel to and from school on my own. This news was delivered as a gift-wrapped-with-trust privilege, but it didn't escape me that this also meant he no longer had to drop me off or pick me up. I didn't mind. I knew that he needed to be alone and still for as long and as frequently as possible.

My father worked in various public high schools, fixing mechanical mishaps that could blossom into full-on catastrophes at any moment. He liked this job because it required almost zero contact with other human beings. An administrator would call into the service whose employ he was in and, when my father arrived, would recount the nature of the issue by repeating phrases that included, but were not limited to, "it wasn't my fault," "it just happened," "maybe we should replace the whole damn thing." My father would nod and wait patiently until left alone to determine what had actually ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!


BookBrowse Review


Though the narrative is rather bleak, The Parking Lot Attendant contains surprising moments of comedy, thanks to the whip-smart and charming narrator, and her capacity for loving someone (even though he is the book's villain) is touching. If the novel has a flaw, it is that the present-day sections of the story are somewhat ambiguous. This is by design as the narrator is not fully aware of what is happening, and consequently cannot relate it accurately to the reader. Her fate at the end of the novel is left open to interpretation. Ultimately, however, leaving the reader wishing to know more is not such a terrible offense, and can easily be interpreted as a testament to the book's compelling plot and characters.   (Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

Library Journal

While it's reasonable to assume that the gullibility of the adolescent narrator shapes the plot's haziness, by the novel's end Tamirat has simply not provided enough of a story upon which to hang her fairly well-developed characters.

Kirkus Reviews

Captivating for both its unusual detail and observant take on teenage trust. Curious and delightful.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Tamirat's wonderful debut novel weaves growing pains, immigrant troubles, and moments of biting humor. ...[a] riveting coming-of-age story full of murky motives, deep emotion, and memorable characters.


Starred Review. Mysterious and steadily exciting...Tamirat’s razor-sharp prose fashions a magnificently dimensional and emotionally resonant narrator, herself a storyteller who frames her own tale with beguiling skill. This debut is remarkable in every way.

Author Blurb Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
A fine addition to immigrant literature that also manages to become a page-turning thriller that brings to mind such masterpieces as Chang-rae Lee's Native Speaker.

Author Blurb Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans
Nafkote Tamirat is a wonderful writer - generous and funny, intelligent and astute - and The Parking Lot Attendant is a spectacularly smart and moving novel I couldn't put down. A fantastic debut by a writer with talent in spades.

Author Blurb Naomi Jackson, author of The Star Side of Bird Hill
Steeped in allegory and dark humor, The Parking Lot Attendant will leave you wanting more, contemplating the impossibility of ever truly knowing the people you love.

Author Blurb Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling
Nafkote Tamirat is a blazing new talent. The Parking Lot Attendant reads like David Mitchell and Graham Greene decided to collaborate on a novel. But guess what? Neither of those dudes could come up with something like this. Wild and witty, funny and rueful this is the enviable debut of a spectacular artist.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!


Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Parking Lot Attendant, try these:

  • A Good Country jacket

    A Good Country

    by Laleh Khadivi

    Published 2018

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    A timely novel about the radicalization of a Muslim teen in California - about where identity truly lies, and how we find it.

  • Augustown jacket


    by Kei Miller

    Published 2018

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    In the wake of Marlon James's Man Booker Prize–winning A Brief History of Seven Killings, Augustown - set in the backlands of Jamaica - is a magical and haunting novel of one woman's struggle to rise above the brutal vicissitudes of history, race, class, collective memory, violence, and myth.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Eat the Apple
    Eat the Apple
    by Matt Young
    Truth is stranger than fiction. Matt Young's memoir tackles the space in between truth and ...
  • Book Jacket: Educated
    by Tara Westover
    Tara Westover had the kind of upbringing most of us can only imagine. She was the youngest of seven ...
  • Book Jacket: The Girls in the Picture
    The Girls in the Picture
    by Melanie Benjamin
    Melanie Benjamin's fine historical novel about the relationship between two women in the early ...
  • Book Jacket: The Driest Season
    The Driest Season
    by Meghan Kenny
    On a summer afternoon in 1943, an almost sixteen-year-old Cielle Jacobson walks into the family barn...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano

    A charming, bighearted novel starring Auntie Poldi, Sicily's newest amateur sleuth.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Sometimes I Lie
    by Alice Feeney

    This brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something a lie if you believe it's the truth?
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Balcony

The Balcony
by Jane Delury

A century-spanning novel-in-stories of a French village brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Y L D W D, Y'll G U W Fleas

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.