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 THE SUBJECT OF HOW WE MET AYALE

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!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The author, Nafkote Tamirat, provides fascinating insight into the psychology of brainwashing, and how narcissistic predators with delusions of grandeur can wreak havoc on the young and vulnerable. 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).

Full Review Members Only (817 words).

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.

Booklist

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!

Beyond the Book

Cults and Cult Leaders in Contemporary Literature

The Parking Lot Attendant's Ayale is an archetypical cult leader – charismatic, intelligent, savage and manipulative. The novel's young narrator finds herself unwillingly ensnared in a cult through her association with Ayale. The cult leader is a fascinating figure, one that is frequently reproduced and reimagined in literature. Nafkote Tamirat's debut fits into a recent uptick in captivating cult-related books.



In Jennie Melamed's 2017 novel Gather the Daughters, the author presents a terrifying religious cult through the eyes of the young girls who must endure its oppressive rituals. The focus is on their suffering and ultimate rebellion rather than on the cult leaders, who are shadowy figures that emerge only to criticize and...

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

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

    Augustown

    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: Calypso
    Calypso
    by David Sedaris
    David Sedaris' Calypso is every bit as hilarious and irreverent, as clever and incisive, as ...
  • Book Jacket: The Word Is Murder
    The Word Is Murder
    by Anthony Horowitz
    A wealthy widow enters a London funeral home to make arrangements for her own funeral. Six hours ...
  • Book Jacket: Call Me American
    Call Me American
    by Abdi Nor Iftin
    As a boy growing up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin loved watching action ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut novel about a Palestinian family caught between present and past.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Place for Us
    by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If You See Me, Don't Say Hi

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel

Patel's stories introduce a bold and timely new literary voice.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A P Saved I A P E

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & 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.