I’ve been wracking my brain on how to write this review because how do you write a review for a book that had you completely lost while you were reading it? In fact I’ve deleted this post twice, before publishing, but here we go. It’s difficult for me to say I liked or disliked this story because for half of it I had no idea what was going on, then it got sort of interesting. Then I was lost again by the ending. This is the first time I read a book & had to start a few chapters over & over to understand what was actually happening. I am not in the habit of bashing authors and I won’t start now, but my thoughts after I closed the last page went something like “Is this what’s called “complex literature”!? Because this story went right over my head. Am I not an advanced enough reader and I missed significant things in the narrative; the development of these characters? I’ve never had this type of reading experience. Has my brain turned to mush?”
SO if this “not so” review seems all over the place, it is a 100% authentic reflection of my brain as I weaved in and out of the chapters of this story.
I could very easily give you the synopsis, but let me test my book blogger chops and see if I can sort of tell you what I THINK this story is about. Get ready for a lot of question marks (me questioning my own thoughts that is). There is an unidentified narrator & her father who are Ethiopian immigrants. There is some location hoping between an island, also unidentified, and Boston. Boston is where she meets Ayale, the parking lot attendant & the antagonist of this story (?) I want to call Ayale a narcissist. He is very good at presenting himself one way, but our young narrator is already hooked on his charismatic charm even though she started to notice changes in him. A lot of truths, stratagems and questionable behaviors starts to reveal themselves in Ayale. There are a string of murders that begin to occur in the small Ethiopian community where she lives in Boston (?) and unfortunately for her she is deeply connected to the person most likely connected to them? Ayale.
I was restless reading the first half of this book. Okay, okay…I was bored. It didn’t get super interesting until almost the end as I started to peel back the layers on our friend Ayale. However, even with the plots of Ayale, I couldn’t find a plot in this narrative lol which is actually not a bad thing depending on what you’re reading. It goes from zero to sixty in the most unorganized way. What I like about this story is what SEEMS to be the rocky (?) relationship between the narrator and her father. It doesn’t seem whole but it doesn’t seem unstable either. I’m probably analyzing that incorrectly as well. I also liked the voice of the narrator. She is young but seemed to be able to hold her own in conversation. She’s smart.
However, drawn in by Ayale, she does some things for him that she shouldn’t be doing which lands her in the hot seat. She and her father flee back to the unidentified island (?) and then my blank stare continues. I am not the kind of reader that gets pulled into the whole “…because it’s on a list” (It’s on the Tournament of Books list btw) and “…because everyone thinks it’s brilliant,” I do too. I then shifted my thinking from all the aforementioned questions I asked at the beginning of this post to, “You know what? I just didn’t get it and I’m okay with this and I will never question myself as a reader again.” To be clear, I liked Tamirat’s writing style, but writing style, for me, doesn’t out weigh purpose in the narrative, plot or no plot. I don’t need to relate to characters but I need to understand their development and HOW they fit into the overall story. I found these characters and story, with the exception of Ayale (AND NOT UNTIL ALMOST THE END) to be lackluster.
I don’t know the author’s intentions or motivation and I most certainly don’t want to assume, but the way it’s written seems solely focused on convolution than being a fluid story. Note: both can exist. I can deal with convoluted stories, but not when I cannot identify what is actually happening and my brain is spinning from complete confusion. I will say, this book is short so you will breeze through it if you choose to read it. This one wasn’t a satisfying read for me!!