The Girl in the Road is a story about two people crossing continents, both running from circumstances in their life that are intolerable and unexplainable. We meet Meena, a young woman on the run from a group she believes is meaning to kill her. Meena has barely escaped an attack by a snake that left bloody, infected wounds on her chest. Meena is forced to run for her life from Mumbai to Djibouti across the Trail, a turbulent floating power source that will take her, alone and on foot, across the open ocean. Miles and decades away, a girl named Mariama, hides away in a caravan destined for Ethiopia. She says that she is an orphan, but regardless of the truth of the statement, she is alone and on the run from something. She is taken in by a group of transport men and a woman named Yemaya.
The stories are intentionally ambiguous and unreliable. Meena is being followed by a barefooted girl who seems to grow wings. Mariama is a lonely little girl with a clear obsession and a dark past. No one is really reliable and the characters are meant to be very unsettling. Perhaps the most successful part of the novel, Byrne creates two distinct and equally disturbing but likeable characters.
The setting is unique. It takes place primarily in India and North Africa both during and post-worldwide flooding. The world’s population is out of control, and everything seems vaguely cataclysmic. I enjoyed that the world wasn’t focused necessarily on what we would currently consider to be developed areas. I thought in this way it offered a different and interesting perspective. The world was very heavily Indian influenced, a likely course considering population growth, the economic region, and the countries that would have technological capabilities for the kind and scale of renewable energy project that the plot uses.
I really liked the way the storylines came together. It was very subtly done and not how I initially expected they would.
The story overall is dark. It’s not the kind of story that is going to have a happy ending, but Byrne makes that pretty clear from the beginning. As we learn more about each character’s past, the story gets more and more sobering. I do wish that there had been a bit more meat to the characters’ pasts, but they were fairly detailed and the growth throughout the story was distinct. Similarly, I wish there had been a bit more to the resolution of the story, but I understand the thought process behind the ending.
It was definitely a good read. The Girl in the Road blends science fiction and fantasy beautifully.
I received a copy of The Girl in the Road for free in exchange for an honest review.