Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy

So here’s another one of those books that I’ve been meaning to get around to reading, but haven’t. When I started down “The Road” ($15, Vintage Books), I was almost certain that the sparse writing style and lack of proper punctuation were going to drive me crazy before I got past the first 50 pages. A couple of hours and more than half the book later, I was amazed at how the story kept pulling me along.

Cormac McCarthy’s novel tells the story of a father and his son traveling alone across a post-apocalyptic wasteland of America. It’s been years since the catastrophe struck. We’re never told exactly what ended the world, and we’re led to believe that the nameless father isn’t entirely sure, either. But ashes continue to rain down and cover the earth. The sun remains obscured by a cloud of the stuff. Almost every store and home has been looted and stripped of food and anything else that might be useful. The few humans remaining in the world have mostly turned savage, fighting for survival and often doing horrible things to achieve it.

The man and his son travel south with all their possessions in a shopping cart in a quest for the coast, in hopes of finding some other “good guys,” but the road is long, hard and desolate. There are precious few breaks and far too many bad guys as they try to survive and find some hope in a world where there, seemingly, is none left.

“The Road” is a bleak book – probably one of the bleakest that I’ve ever read. The prose is as gray as the world it’s set in, but at the same time compelling. I remember, years ago, watching “Pan’s Labyrinth” and saying that I knew it was a great movie because at some point, I forgot it had subtitles. I feel the same way about “The Road.” McCarthy uses no quotation marks or apostrophes, very few commas, very little punctuation at all. I thought in the first pages that it was going to drive me crazy, but about 50 pages in, I didn’t notice it anymore. I was absorbed.

The book is not all gloom and darkness. There are a few rare moments of joy to be found on the journey, though there is far more horror. The most endearing and hopeful thing about “The Road,” though, is the boy himself. He seems to represent that tiny, almost imperceptible spark of good that might still be left in a barren world. I often found myself thinking of my own son when I read about him, and how he was similar. He’d be the kid who didn’t want to kill the dog, even though we were starving, or the one who wanted to help the little boy he just glimpsed in an abandoned town, even though we didn’t have enough for ourselves. It was at times heartbreaking, yet uplifting as well.

I may be the last person in the world to get around to reading “The Road,” but I’m glad I did. If there do happen to be a few other stragglers out there reading this review, though, I highly recommend taking the journey.

1 comment:

CapnZack83 said...

You're not the only one not to read it. I have McCarthy's "The Road" and "No Country" and haven't finished either of them.