Category Archives: New fiction

** The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat

The Parking Lot Attendant is a charismatic hustler who, for now, runs various illegal schemes from a Boston parking lot, within and outside the Ethiopian immigrant community there, but has bigger ambitions. The girl-narrator describes how she falls under his initial benign, even kind influence, but slowly becomes an accomplice. I thought the description of her relationship with the parking lot “attendant” was mesmerizing — but the ending in the island commune seemed way too improbable.

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*** Every Other Weekend by Zulema Renee Summerfield

I was a little leery of the precocious Nenny’s voice in Every Other Weekend — plus, can the ordinary life of the daughter of divorced parent be really that interesting? Well, yes! As we follow her to her parochial school, through her wildly devastating nightmares, and along her complex relationships with her silent, though, but secretly sweet stepfather, we fall in love with her world and her vision of it. Even without the eventual tragedy, she takes us into the universe of third graders, and it’s not quite as simple as we might think. Don’t give up before you read at least 100 pages!

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** Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki

The hero and narrator of Spring Garden is a lonely young man who lives in a rapidly emptying building that is scheduled to be demolished soon. He and one of his neighbors become obsessed by the house next door, which was the subject of a book of photography, and they gradually gain access to the house to become voyeurs from the inside. That’s the entire story, which is charming and slow-moving.

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* Trenton Makes by Tadzio Koelb

The heroine of Trenton Makes murders her abusive husband and starts living as a man — an admittedly desirable choice in 1946. She finds a factory job and a common-law wife, but her double life will eventually unravel.  An unusual premise an an intriguing start could not rescue the story for me, which quickly veered towards far-fetched situations and a long, boozy grind towards her eventual unmasking.

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** Feast Days by Ian MacKenzie

Feast Days stars the wife of a young, ambitious American banker who has been dispatched to Sao Paulo. She is jobless, adrift, and curious about the country she just landed in. She tries her luck as an English tutor and experiences the ambitious status of that position. She goes to protests. She travels. And she reminisces about her husband’s and her courtship, which contrasts badly with the unravelling state of their marriage. The race and tone seem to unravel by the end of this (short) novel but the first two thirds are brilliantly captured.

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* Stray City by Chelsey Johnson

Stray City stars a woman who escaped the strictures of her conservative Catholic family to live openly as a lesbian in Portland. At first, she explores the tight-knit lesbian community there, but she soon becomes pregnant after an untimely hookup and her life changes to a staid (and to me tedious) domesticity, in which she seems unable to discern that her daughter will one day be very curious about her dad. While I loved the adventurous first part of the novel, the rest seemed to be cribbed straight out of a lackluster women’s magazine.

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*** The Revolving Door of Life by Alexander McCall Smith

The Revolving Door of Life continues the adventures of Bertie, which I’m reading slightly out of order. It does not matter, since each book is a compilation of meditations on the small things in life. In this installment, Bertie’s mom is away so he enjoys a much more normal young boy’s life with this grandmother’s indulgent care. And the Association of Scottish Nudists is plotting to exclude members from outside Edinburgh, proving that politics can infect any gathering of humans.

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