The Parade by Dave Eggers

The Parade

Dave Eggers

With echoes of J. M. Coetzee and Graham Greene, this timeless novel questions whether we can ever understand another nation’s war, and what role we have in forging anyone’s peace.

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From the bestselling author of The Monk of Mokha and The Circle comes a taut, suspenseful story of two foreigners' role in a nation's fragile peace.

An unnamed country is leaving the darkness of a decade at war, and to commemorate the armistice the government commissions a new road connecting two halves of the state. Two men, foreign contractors from the same company, are sent to finish the highway. While one is flighty and adventurous, wanting to experience the nightlife and people, the other wants only to do the work and go home. But both men must eventually face the absurdities of their positions, and the dire consequences of their presence. With echoes of J. M. Coetzee and Graham Greene, this timeless novel questions whether we can ever understand another nation's war, and what role we have in forging anyone's peace.

Advance Galley Reviews

Very simple but effective. Two men are tarmacing a road ready for the parade. One is very strict and likes to follow the rules and is getting the job done, the second not so much, likes to party enjoy the hospitality of the locals. They don't work well together but a friendship of sorts develops, the struggle to get the job done and remain on time is important. A story of war, trust and friendship with some hilarious moments and some shockingly scary. I would recommend. 4 stars

A very slight book, in every way. Only 180 pages, this novel is more of a writing exercise than a fully realized novel. Disappointing.

The Parade is an interesting little book. Two men are thrown together to pave a road in a post-war area that is attempting to rebuild. One man is by the book and the other is a free spirit. They inevitably clash. They also have very different interactions with the locals, which leads to a major plot point. I feel like this book contains more than meets the eye, perhaps as a form of allegory. It plays with the concepts of anonymity and interpersonal relations/clashes. The ending is supposed to be a surprise that changes the way you look at the events of the book, but I honestly saw it coming. I enjoyed reading this book, though it is a bit odd. I would like to see over time whether it sticks with me or simply fades away. I do find Eggers to be a thoughtful writer and I feel like that is the case here.

I've heard some good things about Eggers' other books, so when I had an opportunity to read The Parade I figured I would give it a shot. It did not work for me one bit. This is a story about a couple of men that are employed by an unspecified company to go to an unnamed country to build a road using some advanced technology. The point is to connect two cities that have been ravaged by war in an attempt to foster peace and prosperity. I am drawn to books with really well written characters. These guys are pretty bland. They don't even have names, instead going by numbers of their own choosing. That aspect didn't bother me too much until a couple instances late in the story. But they lack personality. It seemed like Eggers took the Odd Couple trope and transplanted them into a post military conflict zone with no oversight. Four is a veteran of this sort of thing. He is focused on the job at hand and tunes out everything else. Nine is extremely flighty, indulging every whim he has along the way. The way the story is set up I could buy that these two guys would be in this particular place to do this job without a larger group. However, the interactions between the characters felt ridiculous without any humor. Personally, the whole thing felt pretty vague. I think most of this comes down to the writing style. We see all of the events from Four's perspective, so his thoughts and opinions color a lot of what we are shown. I wouldn't recommend this as a place to start reading Eggers' works.

This is a nice book with a bit of a nonsensical setup. I doubt that such a piece of expensive machinery as described would go unprotected by a squad of guards. Even less probable that it would be accompanied by someone incompetent. Nevertheless, this specific setup is what allows to create the conflict of characters in the book and bring up the questions about following the strict guidelines and deviating from the protocol in an attempt to help other people. The book captures the estrangement of the foreigner, who witnesses various artifacts of the war. Those artifacts and occurrences along his way are raising questions about what happened before, what is going on and what will be in this unnamed country in its sensitive equilibrium. The main plot twist is not unexpected but nicely underlines the story.

I found this very hard to get into and honestly just did not finish the book. I like Dave Eggers, but this one fell flat for me.

I thought this book was fine. It wasn't quite what I was expecting from Eggers as the only other thing I've read from him is The Circle. I struggled some with the general anonymity of the characters, but I get the greater purpose behind that. I have to admit, the end shocked me and then I felt silly for not seeing that coming. I did wish there were more substantive female characters in the book. Overall, I didn't dislike the book, but I don't have any desire to read it again. I will keep reading Eggers work, though. I think he has a great way of looking at the dangers of the modern world and expressing them in fiction.

I was skittish about Dave Eggers after The Circle, but The Parade was more interesting, maybe because it's written from a male point of view. There were no real female characters in The Parade — just a few used as props/sexual outlets. (Bleh, but OK, it works for the story, which felt very male.) The beginning was iffy, and I thought the writing might be bad ("A swirl of black hair rakishly obscured his left eye"), but then we settled into the story and it became engaging. So we're chugging along at a solid 3 stars out of 5, and here comes the ending. And at first it was a "WTF??" moment that, honestly, kind of ticked me off. Then as I thought more about it, I decided it was rather brilliant, and it shed a whole new light on the book. It was a quick, entertaining read with an ending that made me think twice.

Unfortunately didn't get a chance to read this before the link expired but the excerpt is quite compelling.

As often happens with Eggers, here's a very compelling, abstract, allegorical vision. Two unnamed characters take wildly different approaches to how to build a road in a foreign country -- whether to mix with the locals or stick robotically to the task. We see the pros and cons of each approach throughout the journey, as well as many different reactions from the locals, including of course the culminating "parade" to christen the road. A quick, thoughtful read.

This spare parable deals with many of Eggers's longstanding central themes--specifically, a cultural encounter that may engender either suspicion or understanding, woven into a critique of certain American assumptions about the world. The previous Eggers novel it resembles most closely is A Hologram For the King, but this quiet tale is trimmed down to fewer than 200 brief pages. Somehow the simplicity of style generates a real kind of suspense, mainly because the story is told from the point of view of a tightly-wound, insulated, but suspicious character, in an unnamed country which may or may not hold dangers to justify his suspicions. I suspect this modern fable will divide readers, including many Eggers fans. Count me among those who respect and admire it as a powerful, simple, modern classic.

Short and dull story about road construction, with two stereotypically opposite workers. And then a sudden WTF end. I don't see the point.

This story was surprisingly engrossing given its lack of action. The story follows two disparate characters with very different personalities who are tasked with paving a road connecting two parts of a country that was recently ravaged by civil war. The majority of the book is spent in the cab of an RS-80 (paver) and in the mind of Four, an individual who is ridiculously committed to his task but that grows on you over time. Nine appears throughout, his antics angering Four and humoring the reader. I spent a good amount of this book wondering what Nine was going to do next to anger Four. There is a change in dynamic towards the end as might be expected in character arcs, the change and ending was well-executed but also unsurprising. But then again, it did not need to be a surprise to be an enjoyable read. Overall this was one of the most engaging books I have read where very little actually happened.

The Parade is one of those sleeper novels that you can read in one sitting. The story revolves around Four and Nine who are contracted to pave a 230 Kilometer road in 12 days. Their company has given them strict rules about not interacting with the locals and Nine breaks every one of them. This is a story about how we need to interact with each other and show respect. It is also the basic story that sometimes the "bad guy" is actually good and the "good guys" are actually bad. This is a novel that gave me a sucker punch to the gut at the end even though I was expecting it two chapters earlier. I would recommend this one to anyone that wants a quick read and maybe a little different.

The premise is simple enough: a pair of western contractors have been sent to an unnamed country that has been ravaged by years of civil war. In this time of peace, they have been contracted to pave a road bridging the northern and southern regions of this country. The story is narrated by Four, the older and more experienced of the two men. Four intends to carry out this job has he has every assignment before, but Nine throws a wrench in that. As Four keeps his head down and his gaze fixed on the finish line, Nine soaks up the landscape and the hospitality of locals. The Parade chugs along at a steady pace. I wouldn't characterize this as particularly suspenseful, but the book doesn't drag on. Eggers leads you on with the promise of further intrigue and maybe, just maybe figuring out what this book is actually about. It feels almost allegorical with the way he layers on the vagueness: an unnamed company sending two men who go only by pseudonyms to an unnamed country after a conflict between nameless factions. It felt at times as if I knew the machine they were using to pave the road better than the characters before me. I enjoyed how both Four and Nine's relationship evolved over time, but the ending ultimately fell flat. The final twist was tragically predictable and didn't land with much more than a thud. For better or for worse, I've never read anything quite like The Parade before.

Four just wanted to do his job. He operated a state-of-the-art paver and he had a schedule to meet. He was to pave a road that would connect two halves of a country, the rebels at one end and the modern city and army at the other end. He was to keep to himself, not get involved, just do his duty and go home. Nine had other ideas. He was to ride ahead and remove anything that might hinder Four's advancement. But Nine was a free spirit. He chatted up the locals, ate at their fires and went to bed with their women. He made connections. Four couldn't control Nine. If he reported Nine's misadventures it would make Four look bad. Nine's behavior brought a crisis when he came down deathly ill, forcing Four to accept the help of locals to save his life. What interests me is that the title is not 'The Road' or a reference to Four and Nine's divergent attitudes towards the people they met who have endured war but still offer hospitality. No, it is called The Parade. Four's time schedule must be met because there is a parade scheduled by the general in the city at the other end of the road. The road's completion is to be celebrated. Four completely believes in the road's peaceable purpose of bringing progress to the rural bush folk. He has bought the story of the celebration. The twisted, dark ending was almost expected. In some ways, Four's faith in his supposed peaceful purpose recalled to mind another novel I recently read, The Cassandra by Sharma Shields, in which a young woman finds work at a government facility working on something that will end WWII. She completely buys into her work and purpose until she discovers what it is that will end the war--the Atom Bomb. I have always wondered how people can participate in industries that manufacture products of destruction. How do they justify their work? Do they willingly believe some fantasy? Do they push the purpose out of their minds? How hard it must be to discover too late what you have done. It is easier to believe in a fantasy parade. I received a free ebook through First to Read in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Not my favorite Eggers book. Four was my favorite character but I did feel bad for Nine at times. I know Nine meant well with wanting to eat with the locals and communicate with them but in a way I feel like this contributed to the sad ending. I love Eggers’ writing style but this book although short was hard to read at times.

Two (probably American) contractors have to pave a new road across the blighted, war-torn landscape of a Third World shithole (probably in Africa) so the new regime can have a parade on it. A novel about road paving. And it’s as exciting to read as it sounds! I like Dave Eggers but his books set in Africa/the Middle East are, for whatever reason, turrible. I hoped Eggers would take the mundane setup and do something interesting with it - no way could the book be so determinedly dull - but, nope, it really is simply a portrayal of everyday engineering work in a desolate country. Crikey… I still tried to see what Eggers was trying to say - if anything. The two contractors are Four and Nine (for security reasons they don’t know each other’s real names): Four is stoic and professional who puts his head down and gets on with the job; Nine is reckless and irresponsible, shirking his duties and nearly getting killed. Was this a metaphor for life - the road being paved is life and you can choose to walk along it not taking risks like Four but ultimately have an uneventful time of it, or you can be like Nine and take risks and have adventures, living it up while you can? Probably not - that’d be too banal, even for a self-consciously literary novel. But then I don’t know what the point of the novel was! And that nihilistic ending - is Eggers saying that the Third World can’t be helped until they help themselves? From what I know of the chap, it seems unlikely Eggers would be that uncharitable. Parts of the story were mildly interesting like when Nine got sick and Four had to figure out a way to save him. The character of Medallion kept me guessing as to whether he’d turn on the two men at some point or not. Eggers’ writing too is decent - clearly composed if uninspired - and I felt a strong sense of place from the descriptions. Otherwise, The Parade is one helluva boring and seemingly pointless story about how life in the Third World is as depressing as you think it is! Instead, I highly recommend Your Fathers, Where Are They? to see how dynamite Dave Eggers can be.

The basic premise of this short book is this: Two foreign contractors are tasked with paving a road connecting two parts of an unknown, war torn country. Timing is critical, as the country’s president plans to stage a parade down that road celebrating the end of a long, drawn out war. Though that log line may not make the book sound enticing, anyone who has read Dave Egger’s before knows that he has the ability to give the seemingly mundane a depth and energy that’s often unexpected. This book is no different. It’s a slow churn at the beginning, but Eggers sets the stage for a story that builds into an engaging, unexpected ending. Our two characters, Four and Nine, couldn’t be more different from one another—one is experience, rule oriented and driven, the other is green and less of a stickler for policy. One is essentially a loner who has little interest in interacting with others, the other social, open and charismatic. The relationship between these two characters is representative of the larger story, especially when it comes to the power, and consequences of, assumptions. There’s a lot of this book that is ambiguous—we never learn the real names of any of the characters, and we have no idea what country the main two came from or where they are now. But those are details that matter to this story. It’s well written with crisp, to-the-point sentences that still enough to give the reader all the elegant details of characters and settings. This quick read is worth a go. Suffice it to say, despite best efforts, things don’t go as planned.


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