Thursday, March 20, 2008

'The Road'

by Cormac McCarthy
Fiction/Literature, 2006
WINNER of the Pulitzer Prize 2007
Vintage International, mm pb, 286 p.
Harvard Book Review of The Road
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 have to admit that I wasn’t terribly interested in reading this when I first heard about it. A post-apocalyptic survival story that sounded so bleak. I’ve had mixed results with the dystopian books I’ve read although it is true that I usually appreciate the ideas behind them even when I don’t particularly care for the writing itself, like Nineteen Eighty-Four or Fahrenheit 451. Well The Road certainly surprised me and exceeded my expectations. Bleak, definitely, and harsh, and depressing, but it was also moving, and compelling, set in a vivid landscape. In its own way it was a page turner.

Many people have commented on and complained about the missing quotation marks and apostrophes in the negative contractions, like dont or wont, instead of don’t or won’t etc. I noticed but it didn’t bother me at all. The lack of punctuation and McCarthy’s sparse, stark prose really added to the atmosphere created by the story, cutting to the heart of the characters and the terrible journey they are on. It’s amazing sometimes just how much can be said without saying much at all. But at the same time he had me reaching for the dictionary at times, for words such as discalced (barefoot), soffit (the underside of a part of a building), crozzled (slightly burnt), among several others.
Perhaps in the world’s destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made. Oceans, mountains. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. The silence. (p. 274)
Beautifully-written, it’s the kind of book that deserves to be read more than once. This was also my first time to read anything by McCarthy but I’m now very interested in reading more by him.

My Rating: 4.5/5
(#9 for 2008, Book Awards Challenge #5)

Also reviewed at:
Melody's Reading Corner


  1. I read THE ROAD and liked it a lot. Like you I hesitated to read it. However once I started I could not put it down, it grabs you. For some reason I hope it isn't made into a movie, I do not feel it would do the story justice.

  2. I felt the same about "The Road" and it was also my first McCarthy. From what I've heard, it seems that it is different from his other books in both style and subject matter, but one day I hope to read another by him as well.

  3. I'm really glad you liked it, T~. It's one of my favorites of all time and after reading it I went on to read more of McCarthy, but "The Road" is the best...("No Country for Old Men" comes a close second).

  4. "It’s amazing sometimes just how much can be said without saying much at all."

    It's amazing indeed, and I love books that manage to do that well. I really want to read this one now.

  5. Yes, I agree. It's definitely one to read again. Very bleak, but so eloquent and thought-provoking. Now that I know how it ends, I can go back and read it for the lyricism and not simply for the plot.

    I recommend All the Pretty Horses. It's also beautifully written. I loved it and I'm not a "western" reader by any stretch of the imagination!

  6. I haven't been very interested in this book (I think I just have a hard time with dystopian books), but your review makes me want to consider it now. You'll have to tell us if you pick up another McCarthy book and how it goes. I've read All The Pretty Horses but that was so long ago I can't even remember if I liked it or not! ha,ha.

  7. Joy- :)

    Madeleine- I hadn't expected it to but it did grab me! I agree with you about hoping it doesn't get made into a movie.

    Teresa- Finding new-to-me authors that I want to read more of is not helping my already too large TBR stacks! :P

    Kookie- Probably because of the movie being out but I was thinking maybe 'No Country for Old Men' would be the next one I try.

    Nymeth- The dialogue between father and son was so limited but it spoke volumes. I'd definitely recommend it.

    Les- I had to reread the ending after I got home (had first read it coming home on the train- not a good idea!) and even knowing it was still so moving.
    I've pretty much avoided westerns but will add 'All the Pretty Horses' to the list, thanks.

    Iliana- I don't always seem to get along with dystopian books either but this one was really well done. At least it is quite short, if you do try it. :)

  8. I am so glad you liked this one, Tanabata. I really must get to it this year. Great review!

  9. Literary Feline- I was a little surprised how much I liked it. It really is worth the read.


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