Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy


A boy and his father walk the road south in post-apocalyptic America. This is the premise of Cormac McCarthy's novel, The Road. There isn't much more to tell. This is really the entire story. They search for food, hide from people who want to kill and eat them, and try to make their way to the ocean where perhaps things will be better. But it's not really as exciting as all that sounds.

The Road is a bleak look at a world where everything is gray. Hardly anything lives anymore. The people who are alive spend their days trying to find some sort of food leftover from years ago, when things were different. The world McCarthy has created is desperate and sad. Some say it's a warning of what could be. I think it's fitting that I read this book during April, the month of Earth Day. It is a bleak look at the future of our planet.

McCarthy's writing in this novel is almost poetic. The Road is the type of book I could see high school and college English students being required to read. There are no chapters, but he often writes in short paragraphs that appear to be stand-alone thoughts. Here's an example:
No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes. So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you.
While I can see why this won the Pulitzer Prize, and I do think it is an interesting piece of literature, I can't say that I enjoyed it completely. For one thing, the topic is not exactly enjoyable. But beyond that, it's a very monotonous story. The dialog was horrible, in my opinion, but I'm sure there's some literary reason for it. Here's a typical conversation between the boy and his father:
You're freezing, aren't you?
Yes.
If we stop we'll get really cold.
I'm really cold now.
What do you want to do?
Can we stop?
Yes. Okay. We can stop.
It's like at one moment, it's a great work of literature, and at the next, the dialog sounds like my first grader wrote it. I guess my feelings are mixed on the book overall. I am glad I read The Road. I would recommend it, especially since it's such a quick read ~ as long as you don't get bogged down in his lyrical writing style (see first quote above). And if you do enjoy reading literary classics, you'll probably like this one. But don't expect a lot of action or excitement, or an uplifting ending. Unless you use the story to remind yourself to be thankful for what you have.

My Rating: 3/5

Discussion questions for The Road

This review was written based on a copy of The Road that I received through Paperback Swap.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't wait to read your review of The Road, Julie - I haven't read the book myself, but my husband and I watched the movie adaptation recently and I had written a review of it on my chronic illness blog.

    I wrote pretty much the same thing you did about the story. One word comes to mind - bleak! - and you used that word, too. We found it just full of despair - not much hope in it, was there?

    Thanks for the review -

    Sue

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