STARRED REVIEW
March 19, 2019

The Parade

By Dave Eggers

The Parade, the latest compelling tale from Dave Eggers, is a short book, but not at the expense of anything it needs to function as a taut, direct and lean narrative. There’s not an ounce of fat on this book, and that makes it both inviting and the kind of novel that will linger in your brain for hours, even days, after you’ve read it.

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Some novels are masterpieces of world building and detail, with page after luxurious page of topography and wardrobe. Sometimes, the world can be so elaborate that it overtakes the story and any questions that story might ask. A great storyteller knows what to tell us and what to leave out, and a great novelist knows when the book should be short.

The Parade, the latest compelling tale from Dave Eggers, is a short book, but not at the expense of anything it needs to function as a taut, direct and lean narrative. There’s not an ounce of fat on this book, and that makes it both inviting and the kind of novel that will linger in your brain for hours, even days, after you’ve read it.

Eggers sets his tale in a nameless country just coming out of a painful civil war. Two men, who refer to themselves by numbers rather than names to simplify their relationship, have been hired to pave a road that serves as both a symbolic and literal unifier of the country. It’s a simple job, largely automated thanks to sophisticated machinery, but the two men approach it very differently. One is businesslike, Spartan and committed to keeping to his schedule without any complications, while the other is carefree and eager to take in the culture. As the road project marches along and their journey becomes complicated by their conflicting personalities, the novel asks us to ponder the dueling ideas of isolation and immersion in a foreign land, and how much is too much of either.

The novel is sparse, free of proper names and major geographic and political details because it doesn’t need them. In deliberate, measured prose, Eggers marches his characters down the road toward uncertainty, building tension and conflict until the novel’s complex and thoughtful climax. The purposeful vagueness makes the novel feel timeless and universal, while Eggers’ way of pouring on the emotional details when it really counts makes it haunting.

The Parade is a tight, thrilling, brisk read that will make you ponder your place in the world.

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The Parade

The Parade

By Dave Eggers
Knopf
ISBN 9780525655305

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