On the ending of The Girl in the Road.

Photo on 6-24-15 at 3.50 PM (2)

I went to a book club meeting last Friday as their guest author. Which was like pleasure crack. Nevermind that they made custom drinks called “Snakebites,” but HOW wonderful it is to be in the midst of seven thoughtful and generous readers who’ve just surfaced from immersion in your book and have all sorts of questions and other things to say!? One of them told me it’d given her seasickness nightmares. I was sadistically pleased.

I also asked them the thing I always ask people who’ve just finished it: “So who do you think the old woman at the end is?”

And I got a SIXTH unique answer. I thought I’d heard them all. I was so pleased.

To me, who you think that woman is is really important. Not because of getting it “right,” but because it’s a reflection of how you read the entire book, and the meaning you made of the events that preceded. It’s true that there was always one answer in my head as I was writing. It’s also true that there are multiple interpretations not disallowed by the text. I wanted it that way. I wanted you to participate in the final meaning of the book.

So who do you think it is, and why? Say in the comments! And thank you to the wonderful book club that invited me.

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22 Comments on “On the ending of The Girl in the Road.”

  1. I think the old woman was Meena.

  2. kate says:

    i thought she was the baby that had been cut from the womb. can’t remember the names – read it a few months ago. and actually think i’ve blocked it from my mind – was so upset for days after reading it – not sure why, just incredibly unsettled.

  3. tim says:

    I just always assumed it was Mariama’s mother… I didn’t even think about alternate readings.

  4. Julie E. Byrne says:

    had dinner w/ Liz Clark tonight, and she confided that as a historian she was not sufficiently future-minded … she read about the transoceanic pathway and thought, “oh I guess I missed it when they built that” … only figured out it was sci-fi about halfway in … lolol


  5. montsamu says:

    My conviction that it was Mariama couldn’t be much stronger.

  6. This sounds like an ideal experience for an author (unless your James Ellroy). He’d probably scream at them and throw books.

  7. Can I just say, I love that you wrote the book with an idea in your mind, but that you let it stand on its own once it reached the world. And you respect and *want* readers to inhabit the book in their own way and bring their own particular meanings to things. That is refreshing and amazing, thank you. I think it shows in your writing which serves up this kaleidoscopic world and characters and ideas to the reader, but gives everything room to breath, which serves to breathe life into everything. (Is it obvious I loved your book?) Anyway, on to your question. At first, I thought the old woman was Yemaya, but then I thought it was actually Meena’s grandmother.

  8. Rachel Greenham says:

    Just finished (and started) it yesterday. I was pretty sure it was Mariama; so much so that seeing so many other people in doubt makes me wonder if I was reading too fast… :-}

    Um, unless you mean the end as in the *very* end, the epilogue; that was Mariama’s mother, Meena’s grandmother, wasn’t it?

    That’s how I read it when I read it anyway. Now I’m all confused… Of course, it’s not as if we’ve had the *most* reliable narrators ever. 😉

  9. William Hughes says:

    (I am assuming that the old woman at the end refers to the
    old woman in the epilogue)

    An analytic approach.

    The line “She knows my cowrie-shell mouth”
    identifies the speaker as Meena, and the old woman
    as either Yemaya or Mariama’s mother.

    I think that the artistic decoration of the house, and
    the fact that Mariama mother is only briefly mentioned
    points toward Yemaya.

  10. Martin says:

    Thank you for pointing me here Monica.
    My brain is very analytical and there were several clues I noticed, so here goes myanalysis:

    1) the women who tells the story seems to be Meena:
    she has cowrie-shell mouth, she has the translating technology and it was sort of written in her style

    2) assuming cowrie-shell mouth is a family specific thing. It says ‘she knows my cowrie-shell mouth’, it doesn’t say she has it too:
    if she had it, it would point to Mariama’s mother (but we thought she died, well in the eyes of a 7yo)
    also Meena gave the girl with the boat rupees, which suggests we are in India (what would Mariama’s mother be doing here?, are we in India? are rupees international currency?) But Meena speeking French and the old woman in Hassaniyya suggests we arent in India and its ok to pay with rupees in Africa to (did I miss this somewhere in the book?) Also west coast of India would likely be hit harder by the wave than east coast, so maybe not India.

    3) since it isn’t explicitly said the old woman has the cowrie-shell mouth, and meena doesn’t recognize it on the girl either, could the old woman be Yemaya?
    well if we assume Yemaya’s disappearance wasn’t divine and they sinply got separated with Mariama by the crowd and lost eachother, she was a traveler so she could even be in India, she’d know the cowrie-shell mouth but wouldn’t have it herself. This might make the most sense (the final clue being the old woman doesn’t have cowrie-shell mouth herself)

    4) left over clues: dog, white chalk drawings, dress the color of young leaves

    5) I went back to the beginning, looking for the green dress and found: Mariama ‘I came in from the ocean and crouched in the sand bear where some women were cooking’ could it be the same beach? ‘They were grilling what looked like a long black whip. A woman wearing a bright green dress with red sunbursts said, Are you back then?’ I feel like Im just confusing myself at this point 😀

    6) ‘And there, on the mat in the shaded corner where we slept, I saw a coiled snake, colored skye-blue’ … ‘We get into her hoverboat and she takes me out into the shallows, down alleys of water between houses on concrete pillars, and above us, men in sky-blue robes watch from their porches’ …I believe I’m done here 🙂

    well and what did I think before analysing?
    firstly I just didn’t know, I expected Meena being the story teller, but not knowing who the old woman is confused me enough to doubt even that.
    on the second reading I figured it could be Mariama’s mother, but rupees kept me confused.
    And when I was typing my analytical thoughts above, I realized it could easily be Yemaya with her granddaughter. And then I looked some more and found the snake…
    Storywise I think both women mean similar things, both are in a way Mariamas mother/motherlike figure and each ties a different loose end.

    Thanks again for pointing me here, where I could properly think about it myself 🙂 I’m borrowing the book to a friend now, but I’m already looking forward to rereading it with different eyes 🙂

  11. Martin Holeys says:

    I can’t see the long comment I posted, can you?

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