BookBrowse has a new look! Learn more about the update here.

Reviews of The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat

The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat

The Parking Lot Attendant

A Novel

by Nafkote Tamirat
  • Critics' Opinion:
  • Readers' Opinion:
  •  Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
  • Mar 13, 2018
  • Paperback:
  • Aug 2019
  • Rate this book

  • 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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
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 ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • 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...continued

Full Review (817 words)

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

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.

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.

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

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.

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" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • 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 ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Parking Lot Attendant, try these:

  • The Son of Good Fortune jacket

    The Son of Good Fortune

    by Lysley Tenorio

    Published 2021

    About this book

    More by this author

    From award-winning author Lysley Tenorio, comes a big hearted debut novel following an undocumented Filipino son as he navigates his relationship with his mother, an uncertain future, and the place he calls home.

  • Brother jacket

    Brother

    by David Chariandy

    Published 2019

    About this book

    In luminous, incisive prose, a startling new literary talent explores masculinity, race, and sexuality against a backdrop of simmering violence during the summer of 1991.

We have 11 read-alikes for The Parking Lot Attendant, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start
discovering exceptional books!
Find Out More

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Coin
    The Coin
    by Yasmin Zaher
    A popular choice for book jackets in recent years, perhaps especially in the historical fiction ...
  • Book Jacket: The Night of Baba Yaga
    The Night of Baba Yaga
    by Akira Otani, Sam Bett
    When Yoriko Shindo gets into a brawl on a busy street in 1970s Tokyo, she has no idea what the ...
  • Book Jacket: The Anthropologists
    The Anthropologists
    by Aysegül Savas
    A documentary filmmaker, Asya is interested in the "unremarkable grace" of daily life, "the slow and...
  • Book Jacket: Mood Swings
    Mood Swings
    by Frankie Barnet
    This book begins with a bombastic premise. Seemingly fed up with the heating planet, the world's ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
The 1619 Project
by Nikole Hannah-Jones
An impactful expansion of groundbreaking journalism, The 1619 Project offers a revealing vision of America's past and present.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Very Long, Very Strange Life of Isaac Dahl
    by Bart Yates

    A saga spanning 12 significant days across nearly 100 years in the life of a single man.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

L T C O of the B

and be entered to win..

Who Said...

In order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!