Monday, May 14, 2007

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A searing, post apocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece.

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

I'm pretty sure that I have mentioned here before that I used to be a regular over in the Oprah book clubs, and I know several people who are now bloggers from those groups. Reading with those groups gave me a much greater understanding of books like One Hundred Years of Solitude. Now when a new Oprah book is announced I add it to my TBR list, with the intention of joining in on the discussions on the boards. With the announcement of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I did get around to reading it, but I never did really get around to discussing on the boards.

Reading this book wasn't easy. Given the whole post apocalyptic setting, the environment is bleak, the story itself is bleak, the language is sparse. Despite the fact that it is never clear what happened to the world, it is clear that it was an event that affected both men and the natural world.

A man and his young son are travelling the road, trying to walk to the coast where they hope to find something different. There is very little interaction between the pair and other humans, mainly because it is difficult to trust anyone. There are gangs of armed people who will pretty much kill anyone they some cases as a way to provide food. The man is always very wary whenever there are signs of humans, even if the person is travelling by themselves, always teaching his young son that you have to be careful who you trust.

The man tells the boy that he is carrying the light and that they are the good guys, and the young boy struggles to understand how they can be carrying the light when they are guilty of many of the things that the father says the bad people do.

As they travel along the road, close to suffering starvation, the father despairs of how to provide for his son, especially as they both suffer illness. Each time they come to a town or isolated home, a search is done through the houses and shops to see what others who have been there before them may have left behind, luckily stumbling on a couple of caches of food that help sustain them.

Upon reaching the coast though...they basically find nothing, and they will have to keep travelling.

It is a bleak story, full of griminess and at times hopelessness, but it is definitely well written, and I can definitely see why the book won the Pulitzer. The relationship between the father and the son is complex, but also compelling in its depth and closeness.

I am not sure that reading this book has inspired me to go and read more by McCarthy, although I am sure I will get to him again eventually!

Rating 4/5

Other Bloggers Thoughts:

My Own Little Reading Room
The Inside Cover
Things Mean A Lot
In Search of Giants
Books and Needlepoint


  1. Your blog is new to me but I like it. I read The Road recently and, while I think it is an excellent book and deserved its awards, I'm like you -- it didn't inspire me to read any more McCarthy books.

  2. Hi Katya! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I only 'wish' I could read Oprah's picks. I know I have read at least one and I was furious about how it ended (this was before she formed the bookclub). The one I would like to read is Night because I saw the author and know his story is based on his experiences and I think it is important to be a witness.

    I just get depressed very easily and I'm glad you told me how it ended because even though I know better, I am drawn to stories about 'the end of days'. Thing is, I need to see a hope in the end.


  4. Hi Marg, I love your blog but miss you so much over on the Island.


  5. I am trying to come back..starting with 80 books first! Just have to try and balance everything...especially the library list!



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