Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne

The world begins anew, starting now.

This opening makes me involuntarily roll my eyes. It's pretentious and cliche and been said a million times. Burying such a line in a novel is fine but opening with one is not. It's supposed to present some lofty idea about beginnings and worlds and time, but it's really a waste of ink. Those who have not heard such a line, need to read more. If we take this line apart we find there is no character introduced, nor conflict, nor foreshadowing of conflict. No setting, no mood, no theme, no figurative language, just tone: pretentious. Ugh. What is really happening with this opening line, in point of fact, is that the author is saying: This new book starts now. Duh!

So instead of plagiarizing Buddha or whoever, the author could have just begun with the story. As well, as if to make this line more melodramatic it is also the first paragraph. The next paragraph begins thus:

I pick my kurta up off the floor and put it back on.

So this is where the story begins, with something actually happening to someone, but it's just some nondescript pronoun getting dressed so it's worthless, that is, until the next line:

The blood makes it stick to my skin.

Finally conflict. Though to be fair, it didn't take long, only three sentences, and now we have questions: why is there blood on it? Why is this person putting on a blooded kurta? Questions like these are the hook. So why not make the hook the first sentence? If this had been the opening sentence, it would have stood out more and pulled more people in causing more satisfaction, instead of the impotent psychobabble that is the opening line.

Then we get more useless sentences:

This is a soap opera. It can't be real.

I hate when authors do this: Have a character ponder and comment on a situation for which the reader hasn't the slightest clue about. What are we supposed to do? The author and an army of nefarious marketers will say: read on! But why should we, when all indications suggest that the author is playing with us, wasting our time by waving a vague plot point in front of us like we're rabbits eyeing something that may or may not be a carrot?

Fortunately, by the end of page 1, we learn that the narrator has been attacked and wounded, so despite the minor runarounds like don't-need-to-know-now back story and melodramatic sentences, the plot moves forward quickly enough on page 1 to pull people in, though it does become a little Dan Brownian with all the scenic escaping by page 2.

First thing said:

"I'm sorry, I forgot, I need to pay in cash."

I'm not sure why this was chosen to be the first thing said as it does not reveal character or move the plot forward. Maybe to break up the monotony of narrative "I'm escaping" text as this dialogue is on page 4. The next bit of speaking doesn't come until page 11. In addition, that second comma is distracting me to no end.

Verdict: Pass

I really don't like giving this three stars because the writing style bugs me, but to be honest (or objective), there is plenty of conflict and tension in scene 1 on page 1 to hook. Giving this opening three stars tears into the very fabric of my being, scarring it forever. Who ever said being a critic was easy?

Rudy Globird

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