Book Review: The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne

18297954Read for: Possible FemSciFiFans selection from way back that no one wanted to attempt

Rating: 3/5

First I read about The Girl on the Train, then I read about The Girl in the Road… totally a coincidence I swear. There’s a lot going on in this book. It was a little bit sci-fi, a little bit futuristic fantasy, and a whole lot totally cray cray. Two parallel narratives tell the stories of Meena (from a futuristic Mumbai) and Mariama (from Ethiopia) and their respective journeys away from home. Both are fleeing the presence of a snake, but not much else is revealed in the early stages.

The cool things that happened: both of the main characters were women of colour with a rich background. This is what initially attracted me to the story and I was pretty pleased with the non-western environments. Also cool was that Meena is some form of queer (a label wasn’t specifically addressed, but she was definitely sex-positive and gender didn’t matter). Even more cool was she was romantically involved with a trans woman.

Things that were not so cool: I found things a bit confusing at the get go and felt that things could have started out in a clearer way. There was also a lot of sex to wade through in the first part, all seemingly random and not truly essential to the plot. And perhaps the most uncool moment, and I’m not alone in thinking this, there is a sexual encounter included in the story between an adult woman and a female child. This obviously made me uncomfortable and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way… not even sure why it was critical to include beyond maybe the sex-positive message that clearly flew way over my super-prude head. I was also a bit bummed by the actions of the trans character in the end, after a lot of positive character building she fell into a pretty stereotypical pit.

Things resolve in a slightly unexpected (though I was starting to expect) way. Admittedly I got a bit lost in the final chapters as things became a bit more abstract and they roared towards the conclusion. Overall the world-building was interesting but needed more detail; I’m not even sure what year it was supposed to be… there were some sci-fi elements that were under-developed or explained like the “cloud”, and in places the language got a bit lazy (when Meena was in the museum learning about the Trail she was “amazed” or thought things were “amazing” about 10 times too many)

This was an ambitious story that required an awful lot of imagination on the part of the reader, I felt. I liked it, but didn’t LIKE like it, you know? Definitely a good one to generate discussion, though, if anyone wants to read it with a group.

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