The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Posted on October 21, 2009. Filed under: Books, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I’m a little speechless, but have a lot of thoughts and opinions about this book at the same time. I didn’t expect to be sitting at this screen with no idea how to start this review, but here goes…

To say that I am haunted by this book doesn’t seem to be the correct adjective. Stunned, maybe a better choice, contemplative, better still and in the end I still dont think there is a combination of that many words that can truly describe the feelings that this book left me with. After the book was finished I could still feel the story lingering within me. It was there when I slept and it was in my thoughts as I watched TV later that evening. I felt like I could not shake the feelings of despair, sorrow and uncertainty that this book clearly painted with each word. This book is something I recommend to any and every reader out there, the words are dramatic but simple and McCarthy truly paints a vivid portrait through his words. If you have a group of friends or a reading circle I’d recommend that you read it together so that you can have discussions about the book, you will want to talk about it trust me!

The ending was inevitable and maybe I start with describing the ending first here because maybe the ending was just the beginning, it’s hard to distinguish in this book where exactly the world left off and where the world began, but that’s something you don’t fully realize until you finish this book. McCarthy gives you just enough information to understand, or to feel like you understand. The book slowly gives off bits and pieces of information about this world that his characters are fumbling in. Not naming these characters is an interesting element, especially when names are asked of minor characters. I think not having characters named gave off the impression to the reader that these characters could be anyone; they were easy to relate to not having a name to classify them and it almost made their despair feel more real; these characters were in such dire straits that names weren’t even necessary.

This is a true tale of despair. You will follow a father and son across a barren, stripped and charred land in search of something, possibly in search of a land that hasn’t been killed and raked over with ash, maybe for a tribe they can fit in with and maybe they went on this journey because it became the normal way; maybe the journey would be their objective in the world from this point out. While it’s true they were running away from the problems they left in their starting place, neither knew what they were running towards which increased the risks that this journey would take.

As you learn more about the child, aka The Boy, it is striking to learn what things this child has never been exposed to. You learn that The Father has taught much of what he knew to this boy, the boy had never previously tasted a coca cola and most likely had never seen a cow in his life, things that most American children could easily identify by sight, sound or taste. In contrast this boy did know what rotting human flesh smelled like, and had also watched death take its toll on many other travelers. This child knew true fear and starvation, he also knew survival skills of the wild, but still was a child. It was amazing to be brought back to moments when the child was scared and when fear gripped him as it would any child his age, because for a few chapters you may have almost forgotten his young age. You also learn about this relationship between The Father and The Boy. It is a relationship that faces some rocky moments, but moments that you know are still filled with complete affection and love for one another. There is no love more pure than the love, respect, and devotion that this father gives to his son, and each chapter you feel the love spill from the pages and can see that as many times the easy road out of the world may be available for the father, his love for his child makes the long road the only road he will travel.

This book was about learning. You learned of their struggles, you learned of their survival, you learned about true fear and you learned about human nature in the worst of circumstances. Is this the way that we would behave if we were placed in the same unfortunate situation? Would we wish for death or would we ‘carry the fire’ and continue to search for something, anything better, or really something other than death? These are some of the questions that are raised with each passing chapter in this novel.

It is a novel written with extreme poise and such a careful tongue. No word is wasted and no word is misused. McCarthy truly uses every word to paint the picture of despair in a world that has gone to rubble, and of a dwindling population that has turned its back on each other as well as the world around them. This book is not a light in subject matter, it is a dark novel but one that cannot be passed up. It truly makes you not only appreciative of the world around you, but aware of what may have come before and what may come after, maybe this is a warning of what the worst may look like. It also makes you look towards a higher power and seek answers to questions about what if, and why not. I am excited for this novel to be turned into a film, because it will be interesting to see how it is adapted and to see if the emotions and feelings that are captured within this story can be expressed similarly through film.

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2 Responses to “The Road by Cormac McCarthy”

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this book has been on my to read list for so long but this is the first time i have considered getting in my car and going to buy it, like right now! 🙂

O you HAVE to! Really it was that memorable and lasting and good. Really a very intense but worthwhile read!!


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