ORIGINALLY POSTED ON GOODREADS 07/01/2014
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for an honest review.
“…Relationships never end. Once made, they just influence each other backwards and forwards in time, for better or worse.”
The Girl in the Road embodies this sentiment as the stories of Meena and Mariama are laid out before us. Though the two women have never met, their lives seem to parallel as the two narrate their journeys through a futuristic world and later connect in ways that left me stunned.
Meena awakes one morning in Mumbai with snake bites on her chest. After realizing what has happened she begins her flight from the country. Even from the first few pages we realize that Meena is an unreliable narrator. The way that she views the world around her is distorted in such a way that there are times when I was unsure of whether she was seeing an illusion or something real. She continually sees a barefoot girl following her which, along with several other events, is what prompts her to take to the very off limits Trail- a bridge built across the Arabian Sea. All the while Meena thinks of her past and begins to put together the story leading to the morning where she woke to find herself bitten.
Despite some of her less than admirable traits, I found myself loving piecing together Meena’s life. Some parts of her story were heartbreaking, while others had me so frustrated that I wished that I could shake her through the pages. Bit by bit we begin to find the truth of Meena’s past and how she contributed to the bites that lead her to flee the country. All the while, her story overlaps with and in some ways parallels Mariama’s.
Mariama is a young girl living in Africa with her mother after they manage to escape from the cruel man who kept them as slaves. One morning she returns to where she and her mother are staying to find a snake in her mother’s bed. She runs away and finds herself in the company of two men who are traveling to Ethiopia for a delivery. After she is taken on by the two, a young woman named Yemaya joins them and it is to her that Mariama speaks as she narrates her tale.
Just as Meena is an unreliable narrator, Mariama cannot be trusted to quite grasp what is going on around her throughout her tale. She is a child and, because of that and how sheltered she was growing up, there are times when she isn’t necessarily seeing things as they really are. Pieces begin to fall into place as she grows older and begins to tell her tale with the perspective of an adult. It is then that we are given a glimpse as to how her life might be intertwined with Meena.
One of my favorite aspects of this book was the characters. There was such a variety of people represented and they were done in such a richly detailed way that I felt immersed in the worlds that we had a glimpse of. Along with that was the queer culture that we had a glimpse of through Meena and her lover Mohini. This look at how Byrne thought this culture might evolve in the future was fascinating. That being said, this book is riddled with sexual abuse and at times detailed descriptions of it; so please be aware of that going into it.
There were times when this book left me hopelessly confused in the best way possible. Because the story is told from Meena and Mariama’s points of view, the reader has to find the hidden meaning- often referred to by the characters as the “golden meaning”- of what they are saying. As the book wrapped up and everything was revealed I found myself in awe. The way in which Byrne tied everything up felt perfect and so fitting for this heartbreaking story. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for her next novel.
Grab a copy here (Link leads to BookDepository- shipping is free for many countries!)