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PictureThe Girl in the Road, by Monica Byrne.

Ho-LY Sh*t. 

I LOVE it. 
I love it I love it I love it.

Reading The Girl in the Road, I had not yet made it halfway through, its fast became one of my favorite books. Truthfully, just after reading the first few lines, I was hooked, with no possible way of escape. This title's publication date isn't set until May 2014, and even though I'm reading it in ebook format, I'm desperate to get my hands on a physical copy. I could EAT this book.

The Girl in the Road is a book about death and dying, giving birth and new life.

The story begins with subtle themes of spirituality born of a traumatic event. A snake bite. Blood, pumping from the shallow between Meena's breasts. White bandaging applied in the shape of a cross. All the foundational elements required for the building of a religion are accounted for. 

The surrounding scene in the midst of her exodus is dizzying;  the day is the ninth day of Odem, a yearly ten-day festival honoring King Mahabali. Excitements peak and ceremonial flowers tower and reach their toppling point. An atmosphere of gaiety thins the barriers of caste and creed as participants make merry.

Like the revered and beloved King Mahabali, so loved for his kindness and generosity that Lord Vishnu was provoked into a jealousy so severe, he pushed the goodly king off the edge of the earth, the character Meena draws the attention of an unknown assailant who plants a deadly snake in her bed, causing her to flee her hometown while around her, celebrants are wild with revelry as they prepare for a parade.

The young woman, Meena, describes her state as both manic and sanctified. Leaving the heart of "the world," she walks past another parade; a long road lined with religious statues and icons to further embed the sensation of sanctification and to a degree, the day of her own birthing. 

Intricate and complex, Monica Byrne's first novel is a deeply satisfying read. Rich layers of history and character development give her protagonist an impression of intimate familiarity, creating the illusion of personal investment in her quest. Escaping from an unknown assailant, Meena sets out across forbidden territory, an energy-harvesting bridge crossing the Atlantic Ocean in her crusade to piece together the puzzle of her mother's death, and soothe her longing for maternal love by gaining insight as to her mother's life.  Seven meters below the surface of the ocean, Meena finds herself connected by an umbilical-like cord to the Trail. In underwater orb, Meena reflects on times she has longed for her mother. It is as if, in the black, rocking, depths of the ocean, curled, naked, in the fetal position within the womb-like confines of the orb, she enters into a season of mourning and self-evaluation, and always, visions of an unknown girl in the road.

Written in a futuristic time of sexual and racial fluidity in which gender and ethnic identification are surgically reassigned and prejudices in that regard have all-but died off, the story veers into a sub-plot bringing a lavish complexity to Meena's pilgrimage. A young slave girl, Mariama, embarks in her own journey to Ethiopia hidden away in the back of a truck, also seeking to fill the vast space of being left motherless. The weaving of their individual journeys creates a place of unexpected intersect, leaving the stunned reader with the suggestion of the savory essence of a myth turned legend.
Monica Byrne is a writer, playwright, and traveler based in Durham, NC. She has a pilot’s license (from when she wanted to be an astronaut), a yoga teacher certification (from when she realized she didn’t want to be an astronaut), and one very-marked-up passport (from when she realized she was an artist). She holds degrees in biochemistry from Wellesley and MIT. 

THE GIRL IN THE ROAD is her first novel written, an experience which she describes as, "
a labor of love--two years of prep, four months of travel, three years of writing--and I really had no idea whether anyone would respond to it. The fact that people *are* is...well, overwhelming."

I was overwhelmed reading it.

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