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 cart of scavenged food—and each other.
THE ROAD is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.
No, I did not read this for school. I read it over summer holidays for fun, because I’m a nerd. I’m also probably going to read CATCHER IN THE RYE or THE HANDMAID’S TALE next, because why not.
All jokes aside, I actually really liked this book.
I’ve heard a lot of different opinions on this book. Some of them have been good. Some of them have been bad. Most of them are that this book is really freaking weird, which I agree with whole-heartedly. THE ROAD is weird—incredibly so, and jarring, and confusing. I’m still not 100% sure of anything I read.
It’s also incredibly dark. I already knew the book’s basic plot thanks to my grade 12 English class, which probably helped me deal with some of the more horrifying scenes, but there were still parts that made me stop and shudder. McCarthy describes things in such a visceral, basic way that allows you to picture what’s going on exactly without wasting a single word. His bare-bones, almost minimalistic approach to using descriptors is something I hope to emulate one day. I love his style in general, but his way of describing things is something I particularly admire.
But the thing that surprised me the most wasn’t the gore, or the weirdness of the story itself. It was how impossibly tender the Man and the Boy could be towards each other. Even in a world so destroyed and twisted, the two of them could still love each other so deeply. The scene where the Man has a flashback of his wife was especially beautiful to me, just as much as it was sad.
We see so many awful things throughout the novel, from humans being eaten alive to dead babies to murderous men. To think that something so tender and pure could survive in a world as horrible as that is unthinkable, and that’s what makes it so lovely. It’s also what makes it so heartbreaking when the man dies later in the novel. The bond they share is what makes the novel as beautiful as it is, even despite the horror surrounding them.
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