The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne
Gillian Flynn certainly started something with her narrative creativity in Gone Girl and talented authors such as Monica Byrne have taken full advantage of this. I don’t want to call it a trend, because Byrne’s style is something new all together. I’ll get to that, but first, some information on this unique tale.
Set a few years in the future covering the span of Africa and India (the east holds all the power now, not the west) we meet Meena, a late twentysomething who wakes up with snake bites and knows it’s time to get out of India. She learns of the mythical Trail and begins her quest on it. Her story turns into a survival tale with deep introspection.
Also going on a journey is Mariama, a young girl running away to Ethiopia. She joins a caravan of travelers that include the mysterious Yemaya. Obviously, Meena and Mariama’s world’s collide. The two are forever connected.
The three main characters of this novel, all three female, are strong, limitless protagonists. They do not let the societal norms so common in India and Africa dictate their lives. Meena is bisexual, she defies her race and the caste she was brought up in. Mariama has the beautiful naiveté of the young. She feels like she can do anything since there are no adults in her new world to tell her not to. Yemaya, a presence in both stories, though her physical form is in Mariama’s, embraces the spiritual aspects of life, seeing herself as unbound to anyone.
Like all good roller coaster novels, the story takes it time to carefully climb to the apex, and then comes whooshing down into a startling conclusion. Once everything falls into place, revelation after revelation comes at breakneck speed and then you’re at the end of the ride, catching your breath even though you haven’t left you seat at all.
There are a few scenes guaranteed to prickle some readers, but Byrne takes care to make her hardened characters, Meena in particular, sympathetic. The influence of Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood (one of this blogger’s favorite writers) is all over the book, but as a writer she stands out, so forward and lyrical at the same time. Her prose and ideas include a lot of eastern spirituality, and it’s refreshing without being overbearing.
I enjoyed The Girl in the Road, but I have a hard time giving it five stars. The main themes did not jump out at me. The story is clearly awash in feminine energy, but what is it saying about women, if anything? What does it say about the Eastern Hemisphere? Violence and nature and energy? The relationship between Mariama and Meena? The ingredients for a great story are all there, the thematic absence the only thing I was really craving.
Final Review: 4.5/5 stars
Read It: If you love feminist stories, dystopian survival tales, the works of Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, Gillian Flynn, and are interested in environmentalism, India, and social justice.
FTC disclaimer: I received The Girl in the Road for free from Blogging for Books for this review.