cover image The Parking Lot Attendant

The Parking Lot Attendant

Nafkote Tamirat. Holt, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-12850-8

Tamirat’s wonderful debut novel weaves growing pains, immigrant troubles, and moments of biting humor. When the story opens, the unnamed 15-year-old narrator and her father are living on an island run by a shadowy collective. She then flashes back to her life in Boston with her father, an Ethiopian immigrant, and the story of how they ended up on the island. An overheard Amharic conversation draws her to much older Ayale, a fellow Ethiopian and parking lot attendant. Attracted to his challenging personality and intrigued by the sway he has over a wide range of devoted followers, the narrator becomes deeply attached to Ayale. Tension fills Tamirat’s story: quotidian teenage frustrations are combined with the real danger of the narrator’s unquestioning trust in Ayale’s hasty explanations for his package delivery scheme. As questions pile up and strangers start lurking near the narrator’s home, the danger rises and Ayale reveals his intentions. One of the debut’s highlights is the narrator: she is both able to hold her own against Ayale in intellectual debates and desperate to gain his acceptance and love; like many teenagers, she is at once world-weary, naive, outspoken, and vulnerable. The unsettling conclusion serves as a perfect ending for this riveting coming-of-age story full of murky motives, deep emotion, and memorable characters. (Apr.)