The Road – Cormac McCarthy (and other stuff)

Posted 21 August, 2008 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 26 Comments

Tags:

Title: The Road
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Date Finished: August 20, 2008 #48
Pages: 287
Rating: 4.25/5

Every once in a while a book comes around that will stick with you–I’ve been lucky to find a few of those recently and this one is no exception. This is my fourth McCarthy book and while I’ve liked/loved the others maybe just as well, this is the one that I will continue to remember and think about.

I’m not sure what I can add to what others have said about the plot–and really it is quite simple so I’ll keep it short. The Road is about a father and son who are travelling south through the post-apocalyptic ruins of what used to be America. Knowing they will die in the brutal winter of where they are, they must seek out a warmer climate near the ocean. During their journey they encounter every horror of what has become of the remnants of humanity and nature. The two travel with the clothes on their back, what they can fit into a shopping cart, and a pistol with two bullets–meant for suicide.

With every other McCarthy book I’ve read, hopelessness is seemingly ubiquitous. While I think that there is plenty of hope in this book for those who search hard enough, terror and fear abound. There is a movie being released maybe this winter and I don’t think I can possibly see it after reading the book. McCarthy takes a hard look at how mankind would react if almost everything was wiped from the face of the earth. If every day was a battle to survive. The dead are everywhere–and if you aren’t dead you have to watch your back to make sure it stays that way. It is the stuff of nightmares–and I have enough of an imagination to visualize the happenings of this book without having to witness it on the big screen. Sheesh!!

What I love about McCarthy is his style. If Hemingway is terse, I think that would make McCarthy uberterse. What amazes me about McCarthy is that he says so little but draws me in just the same. Of the four I’ve read, this is by far the starkest both in terms of writing and content, but the style fits the book. While he does go into detail about certain events that happen, there is also so much not said. For instance, we have no idea what caused the apocalypse or how long it has been going on for. We know there are good guys and bad guys but not what their ultimate purpose is. Once upon a time things were normal, but we don’t know how long ago that was. For me, what was left out was just as impactful as what was said–and it certainly adds to the horror.

And then there is the relationship of the son and the father. Their conversations are all so simple and so incredibly heartbreaking. The father loves his son so much but how can he pretend that he is not just as scared as the son is. And the son, who wants to believe every word that his father says but ultimately knows that his father is sometimes lying to him in order to protect him. These are the parts that will continue to stick with me. As they would both say, “Okay.”

I have several friends who have started this book, struggled through the first 50 pages or so, and never finished. I think that one has to get into the rhythm of McCarthy’s style–and once there the book is difficult to put down. This book is haunting–it tugged at my heartstrings and punched me in the gut–but it is also a beautiful portrait of pure love.

So, what do you think of the book? How do you think it will translate into film? See what they think about the book:
CJ; Nicola; Wendy; Joy; Dewey; Raidergirl3; Gautami; Tricia ; Laura; Serena

***************************************************************************
OTHER STUFF
I’m leaving on a jet plane tomorrow for Toronto!! Its been four years since I’ve been up to visit and Scott has never been so we are really excited (its actually a family trip). The weather is supposed to be gorgeous and I can’t wait! My Google Reader has been pretty quiet all week–are people on vacation? Anyway, just wanted to let you know why I won’t be around for a few days and I’ll make my rounds when I get back next week.

GIVEAWAYS
Don’t forget about my Farworld: Water Keep giveaway!! Click HERE to enter. I’ll draw a winner on Wednesday August 27th when I get to my computer.

Also Jeane is celebrating her blogiversary with a giveaway HERE.

And Dar is giving away a copy of One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell HERE.

26 Responses to “The Road – Cormac McCarthy (and other stuff)”

  1. Reading your review reminded me of why I put the book down last year–the utter bleakness of EVERYTHING. I’m still not looking forward to it, although I hope that pushing through the beginning will help me appreciate McCarthy as you do.

    Have a super great time in Toronto!!

  2. I rated this the same as you, Trish. I have never had a book put me in such an emotional funk as this one did. It was so heavy and overwhelming that I needed time to recoup before I moved onto the next book; the subject matter was just so bleak.

    On a better note: Happy vacationing! :)

  3. I just don’t think I could make it through this one. Look at how long it took me to read A Thousand Splendid Suns! I believe it’s probably a great one, but I think I’ll be passing on it.

  4. “What amazes me about McCarthy is that he says so little but draws me in just the same.”
    Same here. And I’m usually not a big fan of that kind of writing. But like you said, the style fits the story perfectly.

    This one will stay with me for a long, long time too. It was actually my first McCarthy. What would you recommend next?

    Have a great time in Toronto :)

  5. Hey Trish, I read this one a while ago now and I can still vividly remember it. I found the story disturbing but didn’t put it down. I agree that for such a short novel it packs a huge impact. I really doubt I could watch a movie of this though.

    Hey, did you want me to enter you in my giveaway. Thanks for the shoutout here. I appreciate it!

    Have fun in Toronto!!! Can’t wait to hear about it.

  6. cj

    Thanks for the great review. I know it’s a difficult book to review and you did an excellent job!

    Thanks, also, for the link.

    cjh

  7. I know everyone thinks this is a bleak book, but I thought it was beautiful. It shows a man who will do anything and everything he can to provide a better life for his child, even if a better life is impossible. No act of love could ever be greater than that.

  8. Interesting, I just read Nymeth’s review of this yesterday and you both really enjoyed it. Have fun in Toronto I went there for the first time in June this year.

  9. Once I got used to his writing style, I really enjoyed All The Pretty Horses, but that’s the only one of McCarthy’s books that I have read.

  10. I recall reading THE ROAD on a cold snowy winter night. I was chilled to the bone, not by the weather but by the novel itself. I rated it a 4.5/5.

  11. I had a difficult time getting into this book, but I’m glad I stuck with it because it was worth it! Did you know this book will soon be a movie??

    –Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

  12. I’m both looking forward to reading this book, and am a bit afraid to finally pick it up. Your review was wonderful, Trish!

    Hope you had fun in Toronto!

  13. Thanks everyone for the comments! Since I’m still playing catch up (although my reader is clean!), I’m not going to respond individually like I normally do. This book is a powerful one and it seems as though many of you agree. If you haven’t read it, at least try it. Laura–don’t know what to tell you! It’s not a happy book for sure.

    Dar, no I didn’t enter but I still wanted to mention it. I’ve been blessed with “winning” givaways lately so I’m taking a brief break from entering–thanks for asking. :)

    Oh–and Toronto was awesome!! I have some pics, but I’ve been back from Argentina for a month and a half and still haven’t gotten to those yet. We need 30 hour days!!

  14. *Corinne – It is very dark but I really liked it. My sister is about to read it and this isn’t her type of fiction at all–I told her just be patient with it. I hope you like it and I really look forward to what you think!

  15. I really want to read Blood Meridian as well! I have it on my shelf but it keeps getting bumped back for other books. Which McCarthy books have you read?

  16. I tried to read this book earlier this year. I’d gotten several recommends, so I began, but then my husband mentioned that some of McCarthy’s books have disturbing moments of violence in them and I didn’t want to encounter that. So as much as I was enjoying the book, not wanting to put it down, I set it off to the side until I could talk to someone who had read it and ask if there were moments like that in this one. The answer was “no, not really,” but it took me three weeks to get it, and by that time, I’d completely lost interest in the book. I looked back at it and realized that in the first 50 pages or so, nothing had happened, and the only reason I was getting pulled along suspensefully was because of the short-section format. I think it was brilliant on McCarthy’s part, but I have no desire to go back to it.