Waiting for the End of the World

No Parking at the End Times, by Bryan Bliss, (Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins), 272 pages, on sale February 4, 2015

Bryan Bliss’s No Parking at the End Times is one of those books that pulls you in by virtue of its title alone. And it largely lives up to the various promises embodied in that title.

Abigail and Aaron, teenaged twins, have had their lives horribly disrupted. Their parents have always been religious, as is Abigail, but when her father loses his job, then sees a billboard advertising the end times, things get complicated. He takes the billboard as a message from God, sells their North Carolina home, packs everyone into the family van, and drives cross-country to San Francisco, so they can be with the billboard-erecting pastor when the world ends.

Most of the money the family has goes to the pastor, and Abigail and Aaron find themselves living with their parents in that van, attending endless church services, lining up at soup kitchens, making do with the clothes on their backs. The end times don’t come as predicted, but their father remains loyal to Brother John, embracing each new disappointment as proof that God is choosing their path.

Abilgail keeps hoping for a solution to their dilemma, some new revelation that will take them back to North Carolina and life she once knew. She wants to keep her family whole, their faiths intact. Aaron, always less religious than Abigail, assesses the situation differently: they’ve been abandoned by their parents (even if they’re still crowded into the same van), and he and Abigail are going to have to set out on their own and find a way to return to North Carolina without their mother and father.

The story is told in Abigail’s voice, so one begins reading identifying with her, but as the novel progressed, I became less patient with her. I wanted Abigail to see their situation as clearly as Aaron does. However, I think it’s to the author’s credit that he has her cling to her faith so tightly. In a world without moorings, she needs some hope of resolution, of love, even if the faith she’s turning to is the very thing that set her family adrift.

I won’t say anything about how their situation does/dosen’t get resolved, but I will say that watching this sister and brother work their way through these challenges makes for interesting and engaging reading.

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