The Girl in the Road

The Girl in the Road

eBook - 2014
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Random House, Inc.

A debut that Neil Gaiman calls “Glorious. . . . So sharp, so focused and so human.” The Girl in the Road describes a future that is culturally lush and emotionally wrenching.

Monica Byrne bursts on to the literary scene with an extraordinary vision of the future.  In a world where global power has shifted east and revolution is brewing, two women embark on vastly different journeys—each harrowing and urgent and wholly unexpected.

When Meena finds snakebites on her chest, her worst fears are realized: someone is after her and she must flee India.  As she plots her exit, she learns of the Trail, an energy-harvesting bridge spanning the Arabian Sea that has become a refuge for itinerant vagabonds and loners on the run.  This is her salvation.  Slipping out in the cover of night, with a knapsack full of supplies including a pozit GPS, a scroll reader, and a sealable waterproof pod, she sets off for Ethiopia, the place of her birth.

Meanwhile, Mariama, a young girl in Africa, is forced to flee her home.  She joins up with a caravan of misfits heading across the Sahara. She is taken in by Yemaya, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who becomes her protector and confidante. They are trying to reach Addis Abba, Ethiopia, a metropolis swirling with radical politics and rich culture.  But Mariama will find a city far different than she ever expected—romantic, turbulent, and dangerous.

As one heads east and the other west, Meena and Mariama’s fates are linked in ways that are mysterious and shocking to the core.

Written with stunning clarity, deep emotion, and a futuristic flair, The Girl in the Road is an artistic feat of the first order: vividly imagined, artfully told, and profoundly moving.

Baker & Taylor
Waking up in a futuristic Mumbai with five snake bites, Meena is compelled to return to her native Ethiopia by way of a forbidden path spanning the Arabian Sea; while a girl from a different time, Mariama, flees a traumatic experience to Ethiopia in search of a better life.

Publisher: New York :, Crown Publishers,, [2014]
ISBN: 9780804138857
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc


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Jan 27, 2018

A compelling near-future that actually feels like a near future. Even among the best sci-fi, there's a tendency to think about cultural change with Capital Letters and Big Ideas. These kinds of stories are great as thought experiments - Kim Stanley Robinson and the dearly departed Ursula K. Le Guin come to mind as perfect examples. But Byrne's novel eschews this approach in favor of giving us a setting, characters and a story which feels lived-in and - what's more, completely plausible. Byrne relocates the focus of traditional sci-fi to people and places where sci-fi should reside: out of the West and away from men. The future will be female and it will definitely be Eastern. Coupled with a spin on the classic road novel, featuring two intertwined but conceptually distinct journeys, Byrne absolutely nails it. Seriously, go out and read this book.

SCL_Justin Aug 16, 2017

There are two storylines in Monica Byrne's The Girl in the Road, set in the mid-late 21st century. One is about a woman, Meena, who is fleeing her hometown in southern India because of a snake in her bed, which she is sure was an Ethiopian terror attack targeting her.

The other story is about a little girl, Mariama, in West Africa who stows away on a transport truck taking oil to Ethiopia. She’s looked after by the drivers and by the goddess they meet on the road.

Meena goes to Mumbai to start walking to Djibouti to find the person who killed her parents before she was born. Walking to Djibouti from Mumbai is a thing that might be possible because of the Trail: a multi-thousand kilometre long chain of solar- and wave-energy collector buoys strung across the Arabian Sea. Parts of Meena’s story really reminded me of Life of Pi, but she’s way more prepared, technologically speaking than Piscine Patel ever was.

This is very much a road novel, with the protagonists having encounters and moving along. I really liked it, and the pacing between the continent-crossing and the sea-crossing worked really well for me.

The biggest problem I had with the book is that it is a story about India and Africa written by a white woman from the U.S. Byrne thanks people with names that sound like they come from appropriate parts of the world in the acknowledgements, but I haven’t read reviews of the book by people of the cultures being portrayed. It didn’t seem objectifying or exoticizing to me, but I’m a white dude. I thought it was pretty good with the hijra character from a cultural perspective. But if you are sensitive to the “bad things happen to lgbtq characters” and “lgbtq characters are haunted by loads of trauma” this may be one to avoid.

ArapahoeMarina Apr 04, 2017

The book reads like a fever dream of the near-future, with the characters struggling with the challenges of climate change and technology. Wrenching and beautiful, it may remind you of some of the world-building of authors like China Mieville and Paolo Bacigalupi.

Jun 01, 2016

A unique, artfully constructed, and wonderfully imagined work of science-fiction. Particularly interesting from the perspectives of globalization, and increasing technologization (not a real word, but I'm making it up for the purpose of this review) in post-colonial countries. Not sure about the actual satisfaction of the plot/ending. Mariama's story was much more entertaining to read than Meena's, which I thought never really reached any resolution or conclusion. She just seems to get stuck on that bridge for eternity, and we are never given enough answers to questions/mysteries about her background or relationships to others. Meena is a character I just never warmed up to over the course of the novel (though I was moved by her physical struggles).

Feb 21, 2016

Amazing futuristic world building. The characters were well-developed, sympathetic, unsympathetic, a balance of good and bad with many shades of grey in between - just like us. When I finished the book, I had to re-read it with the knowledge of the ending. It made it so much more interesting the second time through.

Jul 09, 2015

This brilliantly creative evocation of a dystopian future will challenge your assumptions and open your mind. The two protagonists are both engaged in parallel quests, tied together by history and symbology, both characters driven by longing, loss, and the search for justice. Byrne's compelling, hallucinatory narrative of a trans-oceanic trek across an undulating, energy-producing mechanical snake, is in itself worth the price of admission.

Oct 16, 2014

Monica Byrne's The Girl in the Road is an ambitiously inventive story set against a backdrop you rarely see in speculative fiction. We're plugged into this world through the eyes of two characters—Meena and Mariama—who tell us their stories in alternating sections. It's the driving point of the narrative to find out how these two women are connected. Fair warning: The novel does drag in the middle. For a while it feels like nothing is happening. In fact, much of the pivotal action takes place not in the present but in flashbacks and recollections. For example, Meena keeps walking on the trail, stopping occasionally at "seasteads" along the way, and yet much of her story actually happens in her memory. In the present, we're treated to a lot of hallucinatory monologues and self-talk. This awkward pacing made for a boring read in parts.

The Girl in the Road is built on parallel mysteries, which finally come crashing together at the end of the book. The convergence is shocking. It's a vision quest of a novel that explores identity, memory, sexuality, and trauma.


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Dec 31, 2018

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