What I’m Reading: THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy

Things you will need while reading this: Deep breathes. Tissues. A strong stomach.

Summary from the inside jacket:

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a car of scavenged food–and each other.

When I finished this book a couple things happened. I cried. I re-read the last paragraph three times over. And then I sat there, staring at the book in my hands for a good ten minutes wondering how I could possibly put into words what this story made me feel.

This the first book by McCarthy that I have read. I’ve heard his others are equally as fabulous, and I plan to pick them up, because wow, can this man write. This book reads beautifully. McCarthy’s writing style is simultaneously lyrical and stark. There are no dialogue tags and every other line reads like something out of a poem. You almost forget it’s evening happening, this poetic magic. It is simply part of the story, crafted with care, each word specifically chosen. The result is beautiful and eerie, dark and terrifying, just like the road that the father and son walk.

A pull quote on the inner jacket of this novel tells you that McCarthy has written a “searing postapocalyptic novel destined to become a masterpiece.” And this is a story about the end of the world. All animals are dead, save for a few humans, most of which have resorted to cannibalism. There is little food. The sky constantly rains ash and the landscape continually smolders. And this novel is a masterpiece. For the reasons I’ve already described (the literary prose and captivating story), but also for the reason I am about to touch upon…

While this is a postapocalyptic story, it is, above all, a love story. This is story about the bond between a father and son. About how family can keep hope alive and “the fire” burning. It is a story about needing someone just as badly as they need you. There were many times as I read this that I wondered if the Man would even have been alive if it weren’t for his son. His son was the thing that drove him to put one foot in front of the next, day after day. His son was also, although I’m not sure he was aware of it, an extension of his conscience throughout the book. Together, they are the “good guys” in a world gone bad.

I wanted to see the movie adaptation to this book, but halfway through, during a particular cellar scene (for those of you who have read this, you know what I’m talking about), I was worried I would not be able to stomach it. But I will try. Because as much horror exists in this tale, there is an unbelievable amount of hope, too. McCarthy has woven it alongside the dark parts of this story, reminding us that even when all else is gray and wretched, hope exists where love is present, and hope will never die so long as the deepest clefts of our hearts refuse to extinguish that fire.

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