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The Girl in the Road: A Novel by [Byrne, Monica]
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The Girl in the Road: A Novel Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Byrne’s stunning debut tells the story of two women from different time periods who set out on quests across forbidding landscapes. In India in the latter half of the twenty-first century, Meena survives what she believes is an assassination attempt after discovering a snake in her bed. Fleeing this threat to her life, she decides to track down the woman responsible for the death of her parents more than a quarter-of-a-century ago in Ethiopia. Meena knows her journey won’t be an easy one. She intends to travel along the Trail, a bridge used to harness energy that runs across the Arabian Sea. Years before Meena sets out on her journey, ten-year-old Mariama smuggles herself aboard a truck bound for Ethiopia. The drivers take pity on her and allow her to accompany them, but it is Yemaya, a mysterious, beautiful passenger they pick up along the way, who captures Mariama’s attention and heart. More than a few surprises await Meena and Mariama and the reader as story lines converge in a surprising, gratifying climax. --Kristine Huntley


“Sci-fi has long claimed to be the multicultural literature of the future. This is the real thing. . . . Described with verve and conviction. . . . A new sensation, a real achievement.” —Wall Street Journal

“Dizzying. . . . Primal and indelible. . . . Delivered with all the vivid, haunting poignancy of a vision quest.”—

“Vividly imagined.” —Los Angeles Times

“[A] sci-fi smash hit. . . . Byrne crafts a gorgeous future world. . . . Elaborate and beguiling.”—Duke Chronicle

“It’s transfixing to watch Monica Byrne become a major player in sci-fi with her debut novel: so sharp, so focused and so human. Beautifully drawn people in a future that feels so close you can touch it, blended with the lush language and concerns of myth. It builds a bridge from past to future, from East to West. Glorious stuff.”  —Neil Gaiman, author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane
“Relentlessly kinetic. . . . [The narrative] captures the sheer surface speed and exhilaration of living in the changing contemporary world. . . . A ceaseless storm of matter and energy.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

The Girl in the Road brims with ambition...Inventive… Fearless …[A] wild, hallucinatory ride.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“In unadorned, clearly descriptive prose, Byrne moves briskly from scene to scene. . . . A deeply felt, troubling and memorable story.” Indy Week (Durham, NC)
“Engrossing, thought-provoking. . . . [Byrne] weaves the elements of science fiction and speculative fiction with myth, spirituality and philosophical speculation, all while creating a page-turning story. The Girl in the Road is meant to be enjoyed, pondered, and re-read.” —Durham Herald-Sun
“Impressive. . . . The one thing no reader will doubt is Byrne’s place as a strong new voice in science fiction.” —Shelf Awareness
“This science fiction tale of future Africa and Asia has all the escape you could want — new technology, a murder mystery, two interwoven narratives — plus the cultural commentary inherent in the best of speculative fiction. Byrne’s characters are complicated, a little lost, and well worth rooting for. With a debut like this, you’ll want to keep an eye on her.” —Brooklyn Daily
“Byrne, whose creative life is clearly churning, has earned broad exposure for her debut novel, and with support from mentors such as author Neil Gaiman, she’s on her own journey – as a writer, defying literary convention and shaping worlds out of uncomfortable truths.” –Raleigh News & Observer

“Gripping. . . . Easily one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.”
“Stunning. . . . More than a few surprises await Meena and Mariama and the reader as story lines converge in a surprising, gratifying climax.” —Booklist
“Spectacular and intriguing. . . . Enthralling on many levels. . . . The incorporation of evolving views of gender . . . propel this novel into the stratosphere of artistic brilliance.” —Library Journal (starred)
“The most inventive tale to come along in years. . . . The writing is often brilliant, as Byrne paints wholly believable pictures of worlds and cultures most Westerners will never know. . . . Engrossing and enjoyable.” —Kirkus
“Byrne is a science writer and graduate of MIT, but her insight into our near future is as much informed by her extensive travels as her grasp of science. . . . A book you will certainly be hearing a lot about in 2014.” —Guardian (UK)
“Monica Byrne’s vision of India and Africa as an ever-changing maelstrom of language and culture, technology and sexuality is utterly captivating. As Meena and Mariama chase each other’s echoes, Byrne strips away their preconceptions (and ours as well) through that most dangerous of human impulses: our need to understand the past, and to decide our own future.  An electrifying debut.” —Helene Wecker, author of The Golem and the Jinni
“Monica Byrne has written the road trip novel you didn't know you were waiting for. A genuine and extraordinary journey. Take it.” —John Scalzi, author of Redshirts
The Girl in the Road is a brilliant novel, vivid, intense, and fearless with a kind of savage joy.  These journeys—Meena’s across the Arabian Sea and Mariama’s across Africa—are utterly unforgettable.” —Kim Stanley Robinson, author of 2312 and Red Mars

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4180 KB
  • Print Length: 337 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reissue edition (May 20, 2014)
  • Publication Date: May 20, 2014
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,535 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Despite many interesting elements, great settings, and some really vivid writing, this debut near-future novel ended up as a bit of a disappointment for me. The book follows two narrative paths: one starts around 2040 or so, and follows 10-year-old slave girl Mariama as she hitches a ride from West Africa to freedom in Ethiopia, the other takes place around 20-30 years later and features 20-something Meena who is skipping out on her present life in bustling India order to delve into the murder of her parents in Addis Ababa before she was even born.

Obviously the two storylines are going to connect, and along the way Byrne does some great near-future world building both in terms of technologies and societies (no, it's not as good as Ian MacDonald's, but then again, whose is?). I'm always eager to see how writers envisage a near-future Africa, and Mariama's eastward journey shows an Africa overrun by competing Chinese and Indian interests. Meanwhile, a long chain of revolutionary metal connecting India to Djibouti captures wave energy as power supply of the future. It's also an illegal pilgrim's trail of sorts, one that seduces Meena toward an epic ocean-crossing of her own.

There is a lot going on in the book, challenging of gender roles, politics, capitalism, and some X-rated scenes (and I suppose in today's climate, one has to note that there's a distressing episode of pedophilia). Coupled with all this is the inherent unreliability of either narrator -- one due to age, innocence, and trauma, the other due to a mania that only gradually reveals itself as all-consumingly delusional. As the book builds to an end, it gets more and more hazy and, for lack of better word, spiritual in ways that I found completely unsatisfying. However, I will acknowledge that it's a theme that appeals to many, it's just not my thing.

Recommended for those seeking debut novels with a strong voice, especially from female writers.
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Format: Paperback
OK, first let me emphatically state that I am not a prude. I’m not offended by sex in novels (although I’d prefer it to be less graphic than more graphic) and I’m not particularly picky about the gender mix of the adults in said novels. I mean, I may not be inclined the same way but it’s not my place to judge. I draw the line, however, at sex with children being portrayed as anything but abuse. There are not one but two scenes in this book where an adult has a sexual encounter with a younger person and one is portrayed as an 8 year-old initiating a sexual encounter with a 20 year-old. For that reason alone, I feel this book is a total waste but that’s not really all that’s wrong with it.
In addition to this obvious flaw, the setting is murky and unclear. I mean, sure, it a post-apocalyptic setting but initially you struggle to figure out where on the space/time continuum you are. While the language is pretty good, there is no sense of clear plot or resolution and I finished it with a sense of “Well, that was a waste of my time,” and a strong desire to wash my hands.
All in all, I’d suggest that “The Girl in the Road” be left there to be run over by a truck.
This book was provided to me by the publisher for this review. The opinions, obviously, are my own!
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Format: Hardcover
Monica Byrne's The Girl in the Road is an ambitiously inventive story set against a backdrop you rarely see in speculative fiction, where today's developing countries are tomorrow's superpowers, a world where "Africa is the new India, after India became the new America, after America became the new Britain, after Britain became the new Rome…" We're plugged into this world through the eyes of two characters—Meena and Mariama—who tell us their stories in alternating sections.

Meena is an Ethiopian-born Indian woman on the run after a perceived attack by a shadowy assassin (or so she claims). She nurses a strange wound on her chest, a snake bite she explains. Still bleeding from the attack, she flees first to Mumbai before setting her sights on Africa. She eventually finds the Trail (officially called the Trans-Arabian Linear Generator), a hinged "bridge" that floats on the ocean and connects Mumbai and Djibouti.

Meena sees it as her ticket out of town. This floating structure spanning the Arabian Sea is 2,000 miles of superconductor panels that are positioned like stepping stones. This bridge-generator harvests and conducts the energy of the ocean's waves and sends them to a power grid. The bridge is a wondrous creation by Byrne. It made me think of a Mad Max-type superhighway for daredevils and wacky pilgrims—all who become instant fugitives since traveling on the Trail is illegal of course. Moving on the water, the Trail mimics the sinuous form of a snake, and that primal symbolism is infused heavily throughout the text. The Trail becomes the setting for where much of Meena's journey takes place.

Across the sea, Meena's foil is Mariama, an Ethiopian refugee and former child-slave who has embedded herself with a group of smugglers.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Do you like William Gibson? How about Ursula Le Guin? If you love them both, even (maybe especially) when they leave you confused and head reeling, you'll love this book. I don't often care about a narrative this uncertain, but the writing had a luminous quality that just pulled me in and wouldn't let go. Pretty much every "content warning" you can think of applies - you've been warned. I found it rewarding in very strange ways. I loved the feeling that I was listening to someone(s) from countries and cultures that are strange to me. It becomes increasingly clear even early on that our narrator is "unreliable" - she is experiencing reality in ways that probably don't line up with objective reality. When our second narrator appears, she has her own set of similar-but-different ways of interpreting reality. In both cases I held my own notion of "objective reality" loosely and left it to the narrator to share her experiences.

The title warns you this will be a "journey tale", and so it is. The journeys are experienced (by narrators and reader alike) at multiple levels, and when the primary narrator finally resurfaced I experienced quite a sense of relief myself. This is an ambiguous story, in many ways. Not everything is laid out concretely, even at the end (though many things are). I typically prefer my stories pretty concrete, and with a satisfying resolution at the end. This one didn't match either criterion, but I'm still rating it highly because I think the experience was worth the time I put into it.
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