The Road, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy, was published in 2006, and is 241 pages. I read it in two days–with most of it done in one sitting until 1:00 AM–fully aware that I had to wake up at 6:45 today. It was the most haunting, nightmarish, savage book I’ve ever read, and I recommend it highly.
The setting is post-apocalyptic America, several years after some sort of mass devastation. McCarthy never actually states if it the result of sudden climate change, nuclear war, or if it was cosmically orchestrated, but that really doesn’t matter.
A father and a son are on a journey to find civilization or inhabitable land. They travel through bitter winter, rain, and snow in an ash- covered landscape, picking the bones of abandoned homes, trains, and boats for scraps useful to their survival. They encounter few survivors, but those they do meet are a constant threat. Cannibalism is rampant, and what’s left of humanity is barely more than the animal of its nature.
The book is as much a psychological journey as it is physical. I put myself in the father’s shoes and imagined what I would have done. The first time he wonders if he will be able to “do it” when the time comes I’m horrified. As the novel moves on, I wonder why he just doesn’t “do it.” Then I’m horrified at my own savage inner workings and hopelessness.
The book is bleak, but there is a tiny, tiny morsel of hope that hovers throughout–tiny moments of victory–that allow the man and the boy a shred of faith, and the reader a bit of sustenance to keep her going. The experiences of the father and son, however, assured me that in the event of global devastation I’ll run toward certain annihilation, rather than away from it, because it is the survivors who suffer most. I also keep looking out the window at the spectrum of color and beauty to remind myself that The Road was just a book, and to be thankful for the things I take for granted each day.
I don’t often recommend you walk with your eyes open into a waking nightmare, but I do recommend that you read The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.
* * *
I saw that the movie version of the book is coming out in October. I can’t say that I want to live this story again, but here is a link to the trailer.