I just finished Cormac McCarthy‘s The Road.
I’ve never been this moved by a written work. It’s brilliant.
This isn’t a review. This isn’t a critique. I’m not a critic; I’m just compelled to write about how it made me feel.
I just finished it last night. I started it two days ago. It’s a quick read but it’s a tough read as well. While not reading it I found myself at work thinking about it; wondering what will happen to these two nameless people, genuinely concerned for their welfare.
takes place on Earth in some not so distant future. A cataclysmic event has occurred that has left presumably the entire United States-most likely the entire planet-burned and destroyed. It’s bitterly cold; no sunlight penetrates the thick, black cloud cover. There are almost no people left alive. Virtually everything has been plundered. There is almost no food, there are no living plants, and there are virtually no animals left alive. The people who are left are living on borrowed time. They’re the walking dead. They’re freezing and they’re starving. Some have banded together in gangs and have resorted to slavery and cannibalism.
There is a man in this story; a father. He has a son. They have no names. The boy was born just after disaster struck. We don’t know what that disaster actually was; we just see the aftermath. The man had a wife but after a number of years surviving the hellish conditions and the gangs of raping cannibals she gives up. Nothing the mans says can change her mind. She believes the right thing for them all to do is to end their own lives. She convincingly argues the case. She says she’d take the boy’s life as well if it wasn’t for the father. She walks out one night and kills herself; leaving the boy and the man behind. The father can’t give up; he’ll find a way…somehow.
They head south for the coast. It might be warmer there. Probably not, but it’s something to hope for. As they walk along the road we see the destruction, the desolation, the hellish world in which they live. They struggle to stay warm and to find food. They live in constant fear of what the father calls “the bad guys”. These are the cannibals who would “eat your child in front of you”. They talk very little; there’s just so much effort placed in simply surviving. They don’t need to talk; they’re bound by a love that transcends words.
The father is sick. He knows he’s dying. He has to hang on, to give his son hope. To protect him. And possibly to put him out of his misery if there truly is no hope. It’s his duty.
They continue walking, beating a path to the coast. Along the way they run into some danger as well as some good fortune. They finally reach the coast but it’s not any better there. The journey ends for the father but there is a slight hint of hope for the son, and that’s what kept them going all along.
I was both incredibly inspired by this story and yet emotionally destroyed by it. I’ve never read anything like it. McCarthy is able to paint the most vivid landscape I’ve ever not seen with only a few, well-crafted sentences. The desolation of the world, the direness of their situation, I was there. I swear I was right there with them. I’ve never read a book that created mood like this. I worried the whole time for their safety and these aren’t even real people. Continue reading