I read The Circle when it was first published several years ago. Dave Eggers had written a classic tale of dark secrets behind a glittering facade that devastates when it begins to fall apart. It was a quick, satisfying read and with this fond memory in mind, I jumped at a chance to read his upcoming book, The Parade.
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.