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The Girl in the Road

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  3,019 ratings  ·  683 reviews
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.

Meena, a young woman living in a futuristic Mumbai, wakes up with five snake bites on her chest. She doesn't know how or why, but she must flee India and return to Ethiopia, the place of her birth. Having long heard
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published May 20th 2014 by Crown (first published 2014)
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May 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: meh
Set in the not-too-distant future, The Girl in the Road focuses on the brutal journey of two women fleeing from violence in patriarchal cultures: Meena, a young woman from India, and Mariama, a girl enslaved in Africa. Told in alternating first person narratives, their stories converge by the end in not entirely surprising ways due to the symbolic overlap we see in each of their tales. Both have been attacked by snakes, both show signs of mental illness, both have suffered tremendous loss, both ...more
Althea Ann
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here's a bit of a summary of how my reading experience went (percentages are approximate):
0% - excited to read a SF story set in a non-western setting

20% - not quite following it and not quite caring. Bored and thinking about giving it up.

40% - totally lost in all the jumps in time and between women who have a tendency to change their name. I'm never really sure if I'm reading about the same woman from an earlier time or if it's a completely different person. Still thinking of giving it up.

50% -
Trigger warning: rape; child abuse.
Spoiler warning.

My experience reading The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne can be boiled down to: this was an amazing novel until it wasn’t anymore. I am deeply conflicted about it.


Somewhen in the near-future, Meena, a young woman wakes up in Mumbai with five snake bites on her chest. Not knowing what caused it or why, she goes on the run. Leaving everything behind, including her lover Mohini, Meena attempts a desperate feat: the crossing of The Trail – an e
Patrick Sprunger
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Girl in the Road is a dystopian, surrealist, Rorschach mindfuck initially disguised as a simple trashy book for ladies. Thankfully, it isn't anything nearly as classifiable. To the extent anything can be in this day and age, TGITR is a completely new literary form.

I don't like writing "I can't explain this book" anymore than anyone likes reading such a cowardly sentence. I'm tempted to compare The Girl in the Road to Middlesex, A Thousand Splendid Suns, or even (at a stretch) to Swamplandia
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book defied my expectations at every turn. It is near-future but in two different times and locations. Mariama is in a caravan heading to Ethiopia across land, and Meena is heading to Ethiopia from India, across the Arabian Sea, on a floating road made of metallic hydrogen. Interesting concepts for the near-future, and nice to have African and Indian characters and settings. The writing is my type - emotional, internal dialogue, pondering greater meanings.

Everyone keeps calling it sci-fi, I
Definitely unsettling!! The Girl in the road is a very strange road trip in the near future dealing secondarily with climate change and alternative energies. Its all quite confusing but the meat of the story involves a sort of genetic trauma and/or a societal/cultural mental illness of an oppressed people--primarily women. A rather searing bite at the worldwide patriarchy, historical colonization, exploitation of natural resources, religions, mythology, heritage, feminism, emerging technologies, ...more
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written. A wonderful odd odd tale with an intertwining narrative full of so many interesting voices. It gave me the creeps, took me to an Africa and Indian future, and had a hell of a twist at the end that made me shout "HO HO! What the heck?!" as I nearly fell off the Stairmaster. I love books that do that to me. Books shouldn't just affect us mentally, they should affect us physically, too. I listened to the audiobook version and some of the accents were better than others. A lot o ...more
Maja (The Nocturnal Library)

The Girl in the Road follows bravely in the footsteps of some of the most famous science fiction authors. It is a very ambitious debut project, but Monica Byrne is more than up to the task. In it, she offers an elaborate vision of our future, focusing mostly on new energy sources. Byrne takes her time in explaining the new sources of energy and the advancements in existing ones. Her imagination is largely based on possibilities and probabilities, which gives her world an almost tangible qual
R.S. Carter
May 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
If M.C. Escher ever wrote a book, this would be it. I feel like I just read Escher's Relativity lithograph, because The Girl in the Road is the book it would be if one could translate visual art into a novel.

The science-fiction aspect of this novel is quite thrilling. Wave energy! We've harnessed the power of the constant waves across the ocean with an energy-harvesting bridge that spans an entire sea. It is not a bridge that is meant for travel, but Meena braves the trek alone and armed with an
Anastasia Aisaysana
Ho-LY Sh*t.

I LOVE it.
I love it I love it I love it.

Reading The Girl in the Road, I had not yet made it halfway through, its fast became one of my favorite books. Truthfully, just after reading the first few lines, I was hooked, with no possible way of escape. This title's publication date isn't set until May 2014, and even though I'm reading it in ebook format, I'm desperate to get my hands on a physical copy. I could EAT this book.

The Girl in the Road is a book about death and dying, giving b
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Finding #1: it is possible to overuse the terms "yoni" and "kreen".
Finding #2: a story can be simultaneously boring, confusing, and (yet) fascinating.
Finding #3: what the #%^* happened?
The Girl in the Road is a bizarrely gripping entry in the anthro-anarcho-tech-futurism literature, a genre that may well have this novel as its lone exemplar. I have no idea who the recommended reader for TGitR is, and have my doubts that I am him -- there being an over-liberal smattering of yonis and kreens, and
Here is an accurate pictorial representation of this story:

And that's all I'm going to be able to pull off for my review because I have notes upon notes upon more notes but I can't put them together coherently.

Post Script:
Some of the things in this future are ah-may-zing!! All the stuff Meena had with her for her trek across the ocean? SO cool! Birth control? SO COOL!
Meena's description of using the bathroom and dealing with her period while on the trail made me exceedingly happy. Survival tale
May 05, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: library-vegas
So yeah, I kind of liked this book a little bit but then I kind of hated it. I want to chew up the pages and throw em up, just as sort of some symbolic gesture.

There are some very promising themes and interesting things you don't see in every book you find; love, betrayal, hetero and homosexual relationships, energy development, India and Ethiopia and people of color. All of these things could have very easily led this to be a very interesting book. I get this book, I do, I find the weaving toge
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india, apocalyptic, weird
This book is intriguing, confusing, fascinating, innovative… To be honest, I did not know what to think of it. Whether to like it or not at times, who is who in the woven storylines of Meena and Mariana, Yemaya, the barefoot girl, Mohini… like other reviewers. Is it scifi, hallucination, reality…. But I’ve never read a story like this and I applaud the writer for the great inventiveness. Quite refreshing. After I finished it, I thought about it a lot. Who is the lady in the end for example…The c ...more
Marissa Morrison
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
There were times when I couldn't wait to get a chance to sit down and read some more of this book. The middle is especially good, as both stories build momentum. There's the story of Meena, a woman in India who is running away to Djibouti on a manmade metallic trail in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Then there's Mariama, a preadolescent runaway who is traveling across Africa on the back of a cargo truck. Ultimately Byrne reveals both characters to be extremely unappealing, and the plots come to ...more
Mar 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arcs, first-reads
Thanks to First Reads for giving me the opportunity to read this book!

I really wanted to like this book. To the point where I was getting frustrated with myself for NOT liking it. The concept was fresh and had great potential. The characters are both female and POC, which is rare and fantastic. It took place in a futuristic India and Africa, a welcome change of scenery. Though the premise was promising, the execution just didn't live up to it.

Meena and Mariama are two females living in different
Liz Barnsley
The Girl in the Road was an interesting one for me. I’ll admit that I didn’t really “get it” whilst still being caught up in the language and the cultural imagery that the author brings to the story.

We have two times, two locations, two women, both on a journey of discovery. One across land and one across the floating road (which was an imaginative and well executed concept that was highly engaging). Apart from that I really don’t know what to say about the plot. It kind of has that inner turmoi
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars rounded down. Overall ratings for this book are low yet I have 3 friends who have rated it 4+ (and they were clearly right). I probably still would not have read it but the $2 kindle sales are like heroin.

Take home short summary: Completely engaging and thought provoking book with just about every trigger warning you can think of, except spiders, based in parts of the world I don't read about often (African Sahel region and India) and an inventive near future.

Long version: A story, gen
Jun 05, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

I went into this book knowing very little about it. It was available instantly on Overdrive, and after reading the extremely intriguing blurb, I decided to give it a chance.

I can say that this is one very well imagined and fresh novel. It's unique and cutting-edge and "with the times." The author, Monica Byrne, obviously cares passionately about relevant contemporary topics such as feminism, LGBTQ rights, and the encroachment of Western culture on the East. And it was extremely refresh
Elizabeth Bear
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a painful, glorious novel about murder, quests, self-delusion, and a stunning science fictional big idea: What would it be like to walk--*walk*--the length of a few-meter-wide wave generator stretching across the open sea from India to Africa, with only what you can carry on your back?

I'll be placing this one on some award ballots this year.
Jun 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
I predict The Girl in the Road makes some noise this summer and beyond. While the novel isn’t flawless, Byrne’s exhilarating debut augurs a promising future.

The Girl in The Road tells two parallel stories. The first concerns a woman who wakes with snakes bikes on her chest. She’s convinced someone is out to kill her. The second takes the form of a woman telling her life story to the woman who took care of her after her mother’s sudden death. Set in a not-so-distant future in which burgeoning pop
Dawn C
May 07, 2020 rated it liked it
What did I just read?? This ended with me literally gaping and sitting with about a million gazillion questions I need answers to. I honestly have no idea how to rate this.

Overall, it was captivating and full of ideas and intriguing plotlines. Especially the trail, the wave energy absorbing technology spanning the surface of the Arabian sea, which some people choose to illegally walk across, sounded completely different than anything I’d heard of before and I loved exploring that. I wanted to ge
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a strange book to review. It was strange to read also, but reading is a much more private experience, reviews require certain cohesive thought organization. Well...ok, this book has a certain immediate appeal, something about the strangeness of near future world and present tense narration draws the reader in. But then it meanders. Which is ironic (possibly) because the direction of the book's two heroines in their respective alternating plotlines is a very straight forward point A to point ...more
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
Disclaimer: This ARC was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.

This book was amazing. It was a little confusing at first, but once I got into it, everything started to make sense. One of my favorite reads this year.
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was slightly disappointed by the ending of the book, but overall I was excited to read a book about queer characters in a non-u.s.-centric setting. Like, it's pathetic that those two things are all it takes to make me like a book, right? Too bad.

I also liked the narration and the voice of both Meena and Mariama. I could have read this book in a single setting if I wouldn't have had to go to work. As it stands, I finished it in three days. This has significance because the last book I read in t
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Perhaps this was marketed to the wrong crowd. This is nano-psychological horror. Not LGBT romance. Get the pink off the freakin' cover. Maybe that will help.

A disarming debut from an incredibly talented writer who puts her playwright skills to good use with a theatrical employment of literary devices (meaning: she kind of beats you over the head with the symbolism, foreshadowing, unreliable narrators, and tricksy tech switcharoos, but looking at these reviews, it still fooled a lot of readers wh

Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
With this book it is actually difficult to explain my experience. It's complex, intense, beautiful, fascinating, and a little bit mystical. And really very strange! I have a hard time giving this just four stars because it was so brilliant. My criteria for five stars is that I will want to reread it and/or the author set out to do something unique and accomplished it. This novel hits the mark on both of those things. I think the problem is that I feel like I missed something. I'm very confused a ...more
Silver Thistle
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was offered this one by the publicist and very nearly turned it down because I'm shallow and I judge books by covers.

But then I read the blurb and that pulled me back in.

"In a world where global power has shifted East and revolution is brewing, a young woman sets out from her home in India on a desperate, profound journey of escape and discovery."

Sounds a bit dystopian, no? Ok, I'm in.

And now I'm sitting here staring at the screen because I have absolutely no idea how to describe what I jus
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
SA Book & Challen...: The Girl in the Road (Spoilers) 1 5 Oct 25, 2018 05:05AM  
Feminist Science ...: The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne (August 2016) 18 50 Sep 02, 2016 02:43AM  
Who is the older woman at the end? 5 261 May 26, 2015 07:16PM  
Whom does Meena visit in the end of the book? 4 107 May 06, 2015 10:34AM  
Read Around Jessa...: The Girl in the Road 4 27 Nov 10, 2014 02:42PM  
Read about it here 1 63 Aug 06, 2013 01:15PM  

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Monica is a writer, playwright, and traveler based in Durham, NC. She has a pilot’s license (from when she wanted to be an astronaut), a yoga teacher certification (from when she realized she didn’t want to be an astronaut), and one very-marked-up passport (from when she realized she was an artist). She holds degrees in biochemistry from Wellesley and MIT.

THE GIRL IN THE ROAD is her first novel.

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