Saturday, January 28, 2012

Guest Blogger Sara Lind Weighs in on "The Road"

The searing, postapocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece.

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.

Sara says:

"A man and his son journey down a road.  They search for food and supplies, utterly alone and always on the edge of starvation.  They live in a world we could only imagine in our darkest nightmares: the earth is entombed in a nuclear winter.  Ash and cold and dark are the only things they see.

This is a dismal and depressing story, as it should be. But it’s not utterly without hope.  The man and his son are not completely alone: they have each other.  And they still have their humanity.  The boy was born mere days after the nuclear catastrophe (which is never clearly described) and this is the only world he has ever known.  There is, in the truest sense, no hope.  No point anymore in being moral, or good, or even, it might seem, alive.  And yet, the man and his son fight on.  They are “carrying the fire” – they are staying true to the morals in which they believe.  They are staying true to themselves.

McCarthy’s writing style is reminiscent of Hemingway: sparse, lean sentences tell the story without becoming overly emotional. Given the subject matter, it would be all too easy to be melodramatic, but McCarthy avoids this by concentrating on straightforward descriptions of the action. Every now and then, though, the simple prose is punctuated by descriptions so beautiful they make you catch your breath.

This book has no chapter breaks, which is meant, I suppose, to reflect the endless and unceasing monotony of day after day in a land ravaged by nuclear winter. And yet, the book is not monotonous.  The lack of chapter breaks just makes it that much harder to put it down.  Prepare yourself to stay up late reading, and then lose sleep pondering, this book. 

If the surest sign of a good book is that you can’t stop thinking about it after you close it, The Road is a wonderful book.  It will make you think. It will seep into your dreams. It will haunt you."

Read more from Sara on her blog, Diary of a Book Lover.

1 comment:

Kelly Robinson said...

While I do enjoy McCarthy's writing style and his other books, the storyline in this case was derivative of so many other post-apocalyptic works that I found the plot to be completely unoriginal. I think that the majority of people who were taken by surprise haven't read much other similar fiction.