At the centre of the plot of the book is the idea of the Trans-Arabian Linear Generator, colloquially known as the Trail. This is a technology that resembles a pontoon bridge, joining stations in Mumbai and Djibouti. A substance called metallic hydrogen runs through the Trail and uses the motion of the ocean’s waves to generate power for the African coastal city. At a basic level, the book tells Meena’s story as she walks across this bridge from Mumbai to Africa. This plot point could pass as a classic hard SF concept (and not surprisingly, Byrne is a MIT graduate).
The book also shares a concern about the impacts of climate change with many of the near future SF novels I have read lately (I am thinking of books like Wolves by Simon Ings, Clade by James Bradley, and The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi).
Awards: James Tiptree Jr. Award (2014), The Kitschies Nominee for Golden Tentacle (Debut) (2014), DSC Prize Nominee for South Asian Literature for Longlist (2016)
3.5 rating based on 2,955 ratings (all editions)
Author(s): Publisher: Crown
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 about The Trail -- an energy-harvesting bridge that spans the Arabian Sea -- she embarks on foot on this forbidden bridge, with its own subculture and rules. What awaits her in Ethiopia is unclear; she's hoping the journey will illuminate it for her.
Mariama, a girl from a different time, is on a quest of her own. After witnessing her mother's rape, she joins up with a caravan of strangers heading across Saharan Africa. She meets Yemaya, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who becomes her protector and confidante. Yemaya tells Mariama of Ethiopia, where revolution is brewing and life will be better. Mariama hopes against hope that it offers much more than Yemaya ever promised.
As one heads east and the other west, Meena and Mariama's fates will entwine in ways that are profoundly moving and shocking to the core. Vividly imagined and artfully told, written with stunning clarity and deep emotion, The Girl in the Road is a true tour de force.