First off – I loved this book and resented having to close it when I was done with each reading session. The best time of day for me to read is on my bus commutes, so I’m limited to about 30 minutes of reading in the morning and another 30 in the afternoon. So that left me thinking of the book all day until I could read it again. That is the first sign of this book being a recent favorite of mine.
The Girl in the Road is set in a futuristic India, Africa, and the the Arabian Sea in between. On page 106 Meena, one of the book’s two female protagonists, describes her voyage to Africa:
“I choose to read Sesay, again, her watery poetry. But I read three pages and then I’m already fantasizing about what I’m going to do when I reach Africa. Africa is the new India, after India became the new America, after America became the new Britain, after Britain became the new Rome, after Rome became the new Egypt, after Egypt became the new Punt, and so on and so forth.”
The two protagonists are Meena and Mariama, both on their own journeys to Ethiopia. Meena travels from India on a new trans-ocean form of travel (albeit illegally), while Mariama travels from West Africa. Both women experience trials and hardships along the way, with everything from hunger to death threatening their passage to Ethiopia.
The book itself doesn’t easily fall into any specific genre. It melds science fiction, coming-of-age, and dystopic future into a unique niche. It presents a future that is both strangely familiar and shockingly distant, all while weaving two women’s tales of self-discovery together in a beautiful and touching way. The book ends with a surprise that I, for one, did not see coming. The Girl in the Road deftly tells a beautiful plot and trusts the read to read between the lines.
With all of it’s magnificent moments, Byrne’s The Girl in the Road does fall short in some areas. Byrne’s creativity and writing are so aspirational that we hear about some plot points that go undeveloped by the end of the novel. Additionally, the book may make some younger or more-sensitive readers blush, as it does describe a few sexual encounters in some detail. Any modern coming-of-age tale will do that though, right?
I wrote this book as part of my Read it Forward subscription. Read about this fun – and free – way to learn about and read exciting new books! Expect more reviews on oh amy, dear as I receive books from this program and another favorite of mine – Blogging for Books.