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The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne
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The Girl in the Road

by Monica Byrne

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Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
When it comes to this book am I glad that I'm reviewing books because it made me analyze the book's story both during the reading and after and I think it made me appreciate the book a bit more than if I only had read it without having to think about what to write.

One thing I reflected on was that the blurb on the book was very vague and it made the reading a bit difficult because the book is not making much sense in the beginning. The book started with Meena, but then the book shifted focus to Mariama and then I felt even more lost. So, I checked up the book on Goodreads and read the blurb and some reviews there and then I got a more sense to the story. Still a bit confused, but now at least I knew that there was to different stories set in different times and I knew more about Mariama.

We have Meena in a futuristic world, she has just woken up with five snake bites on her chest and she doesn't know how she got them or why, but she feels that she has to leave India for her birthplace Ethiopia. She decided to take the Trail; an energy-harvesting bridge that spans the Arabian Sea to reach her destination.

Mariama story takes place some time before Meenas. Mariama is a young girl that witness her mother being raped and flees away with a caravan that is transporting oil through the Saharan Africa. She also meets Yemaya, a beautiful and enigmatic woman.


Through the book get to know both Mariama and Meena and towards the end, their stories are linked together. I think both stories are about repressed memories. Mariama has repressed her memory of why she has to flee and Meena has repressed the memory of her mother's rape. It's interesting that both chooses snakes, Mariama has been bitten by a snake and Meena sees a blue snake in her mother's tent. But I can't say that I found the book easy to read or understand and I found the ending a bit confusing.

What made the book work for me was the futuristic take on the world. I was intrigued about the Trail and how it worked, apparently using metallic hydrogen you can in the future build an energy-harvesting bridge that you can walk on. I just wish it had been more explained how wide it was, first I visualize it to be quite thin then when people showed up on it during Meenas travel did it suddenly felt a lot wider.

In the end, I could not give it more than 2.5 stars (gave it a half star more while writing the review). I found much of the story confusing while I read it, some things I still find confusing after I have read the book. I couldn't really connect with the story and its characters. I think for the right person is this book probably really interesting.

I would have liked a more straightforward story with the main point being a futurist world with its social, religious and culture differences to our time. The Trail was such an interesting idea that I would have loved the focus more on that. But instead, we have a story about as I see it two damaged women that have suffered traumatic experiences and we get to know as the story progress what is the cause of it.

But I do find it also in a way fascinating, it was different from what I usually read and it's always nice to broaden your view.

2.5 stars

Thank you Piatkus for providing me with a free copy for an honest review! ( )
  MaraBlaise | Apr 14, 2017 |
Yes, this book is bizarre, and even arresting at times. It is not a lighthearted romp you’ll find yourself reading on the beach, but rather the type of book that delves into the darker side of human emotion and sexuality…. I received this book as a part of my mystery Book Club subscription, and yes, I did pay for it, so this isn’t a paid-for type of review. I’m reviewing this book because I didn’t see a lot of reviews about it, and I thought maybe mine could be somewhat helpful to others.

It follows two different people, one in the “future” and one in the “present,” and each of them are first person female narratives: Meena and Mariama. They are both speaking to people that were meaningful in their lives, which gives their cadence of speech an awkward flow, at times. I know a lot of people aren’t a fan of that kind of narrative, and I can’t say I am huge fan, either, but if it’s executed well it can still be enjoyable. In this case, I think the two voices are very similar, but perhaps that was done by Byrne intentionally to emphasize the manner in which they are interwoven. You may begin to speculate as to how while you’re reading, but about 100 pages from the end, you finally find out exactly how.

This is not an inherently happy story, but it really it is fascinating, if you are the kind of person who enjoys darker books. I know very little about Indian or Ethiopian culture, but reading through this book, I was looking up slang words and food, so it added an interesting, learning-type of element to reading it. I’m dying to try some of the food mentioned in it, namely the Indian sweets that are mentioned a lot with Mariama’s odyssey to Ethiopia as a child.

As a warning to others, this book does contain the following, either explicitly or in passing: violence, lesbian sex scenes, and pedophilia/rape. It also edges on the darker side, so if you’re more into light-hearted novels, this is not likely the book for you.

(SOME SPOILERS BELOW, NONE SIGNIFICANT)
And what does the future hold? Well, there are issues with the weather, which end up being fairly significant. There is political upheaval. People are using plastic surgery to change their race (transracial), as well as their gender (which we are already doing now). And then there is the Trail. Or, as the PC phrase: the Trans-Arabian Linear Generator. The Trail captured my imagination entirely because it is a construct that occurred out of HydraCorp (sounds like something out of a comic book, eh? SHIELD anyone?) that is a sort of buyoant energy trail that goes across a part of the ocean. The Trail imports energy to a plant, via a superconductor made of metallic hydrogen, lighting up homes and doing other things that electricity does for us.

There are people who have traveled across it, but, mysteriously, none have ever been heard of again. Throughout the book, there is some mention of seascapes, and I was curious if they were going to show some of those, but they only showed a small cluster of other people on the Trail.

A lot of futuristic technology is mentioned, like the glotti (interestingly enough, the real glottis is a part of the larynx that houses the vocal cords and the opening between them), and in this story appears to be something that translates almost all languages. Then there’s the mitter, pozit, pod, etc. All of which you come to understand in due time. There are some really creative inventions that are around, many of which I would honestly love to have now.

There is a kind of progressing madness to these characters. In one, the madness is evident pretty early on, and in the other, the madness is simply something that seems to come with age. But I did find each of them interesting because they are fairly rounded character. There is goodness and darkness in each of them, just as there is in every person. And that is something that a lot of novelists fail to capture well, so the rare times I come across characters like that, I am excited. ( )
  Lauraborealis | Dec 22, 2016 |
This book was a departure from the styles I normally read. The story line was very well thought out & the book was written so well that it felt effortless to just keep reading on page after page. So absorbing, I read it in a day! I really liked how it takes place in the nearly here future - with the futuristic touches so easy to accept.
The personal stories in this book were incredibly interesting, although I wasn't sure how I felt about the revelations at the ending. What happened to the traditional happily ever after? Oh well, back to my cozy mysteries stack to get my fix of unrealistic happy endings. :) ( )
  frazle | May 13, 2016 |
This is a heavy book, dealing with serious, triggering issues. I totally missed this in the blurbs I read, so be warned. That being said, the issues were handled well and the book gives you a lot to think about. It was refreshing to have POC as the main characters, multi-religious, non-western cultures. All blended together to describe a plausible future for our earth. Regarding "the controversial scene" My take is the scene has been changed by the narrator to redefine what really happened, clearly this was a traumatic betrayal of trust by a damaged adult, further damaging an already scarred child . So I encourage people to read this, as long as you know what you are getting into. The marketing is pretty misleading and a reader can be caught off guard by the serious issues presented, but that shouldn't be held against such a fantastic book. ( )
  csmith0406 | Mar 18, 2016 |
As William Gibson famously said, "The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed." In 'The Girl in the Road,' Monica Byrne gives us a near-future in those parts of the world which have still not received their fair share of the 'distribution.'

An enormous structure which generates power from wave energy has been built, stretching across the Arabian Sea from India to Africa. This feat of technology has been hyped by its creators as a power source - but to some, especially those who may not benefit from the generated energy or the associated revenue, the project's most significant feature is the possibility of a 'land bridge': a way to escape, undocumented, from one country to another. For this reason, people insist on calling it 'The Trail.'

In one half of this story, we meet a woman who is drawn to the Trail for just this reason. Meena is an educated, seemingly privileged woman of Mumbai. However, she's clearly experiencing severe emotional trauma regarding an event involving her lover, Mohini, the details of which she is hiding from us. And it seems likely that on top of that trauma, she may be a disturbed individual to begin with.

The other half of the story follows Mariama, a young girl in Mauritania who is on her own after escaping slavery with her mother. Attaching herself to two men she randomly meets, by stowing away on their transport convoy; she hopes to make it across the continent to Ethiopia and the hope of a better life. When another girl, the young woman Yemaya, joins the convoy, Mariama latches onto her with passionate hero-worship.

Of course, the stories of Meena and Mariama will eventually meet, and it will be revealed how they are interconnected. Along the way, Byrne creates a gritty and vivid world, both believable and hallucinatory. The book relies very heavily on symbolism, and is involved with the inner states of both of our (very unreliable) narrators. At times, I found myself wishing it would concentrate just a bit more on the science-fiction elements of the book, because I found some of the ideas incredibly interesting and deserving of more exploration into how the described changes have affected society. However, then the book - which has set up our characters and situation as what seems to be a fairly standard, though original, future-adventure with two fairly sympathetic protagonists - left-turns into darkness.

Revealing more would be spoilers, but let's just say that it borders on horror territory, and is not at all a comfortable or easy read. The reader's sympathies don't quite end up where you might expect. And for me, that's what pushed the book up into 5-star territory.

My one complaint? The epilogue. It ends with an ambiguous meeting of two characters, whose identities are not fully revealed in the text. However, the way it's written, the reader feels like they ought to be able to figure out who they are. I had to go to an interview with the author to get the answer... I didn't find that last scene to be necessary.

Overall, though, I was still extremely impressed with the book, and I look forward to seeing what this new author does next. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804138842, Hardcover)

Stunningly original and wildly inventive, The Girl in the Road melds the influences of Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and Erin Morgenstern for a dazzling debut.
 
 When Meena, a young woman living in a futuristic India, gets out of bed with mysterious snake bites on her chest, she decides India has become too dangerous. As she plots her exit, she hears of The Trail and knows this is her salvation. The Trail is a bridge that spans the Arabian Sea, connecting India to Africa like a silver ribbon extending to the horizon.  Its purpose is to harness the power of the ocean—“blue energy”—but it also offers a sub-culture of travelers a chance for escape and adventure. Meena gathers supplies—a pozit GPS system, a scroll reader, a sealable water-proof pod—and embarks on a journey to Ethiopia, the place of her birth. 
 
     Mariama, a girl from a different time, is on a quest of her own. Forced to flee her home, she joins up with a caravan of strangers heading across Saharan Africa. She meets Yemaya, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who becomes her protector and confidante. Yemaya tells Mariama of Ethiopia, where revolution is brewing.
 
     As one heads east and the other west, Meena and Mariama's fates will entwine in ways that are profoundly moving and ultimately shocking.  Monica Byrne’s vision of the future is vividly imagined and artfully told and she writes with stunning clarity and deep emotion, making The Girl in the Road a true tour de force.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:41 -0400)

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.… (more)

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