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The Road, Cormac McCarthy

2010/07/27

For some reason, I have had the idea that “The Road” is much older than it is, since it was only published in 2006. Perhaps I have heard so much about it that I automatically thought that it was a long-established classic. However, it did win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2007, and has been an Oprah Book Club selection.

The Road is one on which a father and his son travel along in an apocalyptic America. No explanation is given for what has happened, but it is evident that most of the country is desolate, with no animals, few people, and little vegetation or other life remaining. Ash and darkness are constantly present, and hunger is always lurking. The father and the boy are trying to reach the ocean; the father is ill and struggling for survival, but still knows that he must keep his son alive. They have one pistol, which the boy has been instructed to use for himself if their outlook becomes irrevocably bleak. They intentionally avoid any contact with others, as many have turned to cannibalism, and one terrible encounter with humans held captive in a house causes the boy to realize this. As they continue down the road, the struggle for survival becomes more intense, and the father in particular deals with the knowledge of his own mortality.

McCarthy’s writing in this novel is particularly effective in creating a bleak, sparse picture of the boy and his father. Speech is not set off by quotation marks, which is a bit disconcerting at first, but contributes to the overall composition. Run-on sentences illustrate scenes of desolation and despair, yet in the end, there is still hope. Not my usual choice for reading, but I enjoyed it all the same.

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