There it was. Standing up straight, beige background, lavender snake coiling across the cover, large black text. Everything about the cover spoke to me, so I picked it up. I’d never heard of Monica Byrne or her new, feminist sci-fi novel set in a futuristic India and Africa. Neil Gaiman calls it “glorious stuff.” Okay, Neil, of all people, I am inclined to trust your literary tastes.
But even without Gaiman’s endorsement, The Girl In The Road would have came home with me. The universe conspired to bring it to my attention after all. My recent literary wishes have included: science fiction with a cool female protagonist, something brimming with culture, preferably set in the Middle East, India, or eastern Europe, infused with spirituality and sexuality, utilizes technology in interesting and unexpected ways, futuristic yet painted with ancient undertones. My call was heard and answered and there stood The Girl In The Road, hitch-hiking on the shelf, waiting for someone to take her home.
Crossing paths with certain books can be a spiritual experience. The moment you see it, you know you are meant to read it, like a soul mate encounter. This has happened to me in the past with lots of books: Girl Goddess #9 by Francesca Lia Block, White Oleander by Janet Fitch, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, Pure by Julianna Baggot, The Vanishers by Heidi Julavitz, The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, and more, and now. (Of course we are all always on the hunt for that one book (the precious one) that will speak directly to us and represent life exactly as we know it or want to know it. Of course, the closest we will ever find to that one book is the one we write ourselves. But we learn to write our books by reading.)
This isn’t your typical scifi novel: with all it’s technology it remains earthy and sensual and never loses focus of its humanity.Meena is on the run from (terrorist?) organization Semena Werk. She wakes up from a snake-bite to the solar plexus–seemingly, an assassination attempt–and thus begins our journey from India across the Arabian Sea to Ethiopia via The Trail (“an energy harvesting bridge that spans the Arabian Sea”). Meanwhile, in Africa, a young girl, Mariama, is headed east to Ethiopia on a truck with kind strangers who picked her up after she ran away from we don’t know what, they are joined by the beautiful and enigmatic Yemaya (named for the African goddess of the sea and protector of children). As the two journeys parallel each other through time and space–Meena’s in the future and Mariama’s in the past–and draw closer, their paths begin to blur and reality is altered or erased or redrawn along the way. I can’t wait to see the two girls collide.
Some notable passages from the book thus far ( I am halfway through):
“I think there are more things in heaven and earth than can be dreamt of in our philosophy!”
“Wouldn’t expect Shakespeare from a nano major.”
“Ohho?” she chides. “Free your mind.”
“I think some people are like superconductors,” I say. “They have no resistance to the energy they receive. They just convey it.”
Read The Girl In The Road with The Stake’s reading club here.