Sunday, January 3, 2010
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy's The Road transports us to a barren post-apocalyptic wasteland. The sun never shines, the air is clogged with ash, and what was once civilization has been reduced to a Hobbesian state of nature with each man for himself, so desperate to live that they've begun killing and eating each other. In this decimated world McCarthy introduces us to an unnamed man and his son walking the cold, decimated road south to the ocean seeking warmth for the winter and hoping to find something, anything that will help them survive in this unforgiving world. Sustained only by their love for each other, the man's desire to preserve the life of his son though it seems to be no life at all, and the son's against-all-odds empathy for those left living, human and animal, the pair soldier on in a world that seems very nearly devoid of all life.
He crossed to the desk and stood there. Then he picked up the phone and dialed the number of his father's house in that long ago. The boy watched him. What are you doing? he said.
McCarthy's post-apocalyptic world is a dark and profoundly empty place. Rendered in his stark prose, it becomes as much a character as the man and the boy, an antagonist to their protagonist. Without so much as a quotation mark, McCarthy's spare style makes the situations that the man and boy find themselves in and their responses that much more affecting. As the man and boy travel the road coming upon the dangerous and the devastated, McCarthy explores the nature of good and evil, right and wrong and whether one can truly be one or the other under such circumstances. In the characters of the boy and the man, McCarthy examines the battle between empathy and survival as well. The boy has a wellspring of compassion that gives the reader hope for humanity even in its most dire state, but the man is forced to focus on survival and finds himself dueling against the boy's do-gooder instincts on many occasions. These are the most poignant occasions, and we, as readers, are forced to wonder about on which side we would be if these things happened to us.
The Road is a powerful and heartbreaking account. With only a few words McCarthy has the power to write the most heartwrenching of scenes. The love of the man and the boy stand in stark relief against the barren, destroyed world creating an island of hope for humanity even in the worst of times.
(Disclaimer - Book purchased by me at Barnes & Noble.)
Read other reviews at...
Things Mean A Lot
Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops
It's All About Books
The Little Reading Nook