a book review of cormac mccarthy's the road

Submitted by MichaelE on Wed, 2010-03-24 07:10

The roadThe road

Some of you may have recently caught The Road on the big screen here in South Africa, sadly I missed it and may have to wait for the DVD. In the meantime, however I have read the book. I always find that books can be so much more revealing, as there are details that cannot be translated on to the big screen due to time constraints.

The Road, is a post apocalyptic story that shows McCarthy's skills as a writer. In 2007, the novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Imagine a world where life is dying, ash rains down and the world is freezing. There is little or no food and warmth. This is the world that McCarthy conjures up. However, the subtext is that this is not too far from being a reality.

The Man and the Boy, a father and son, travel towards the coast in search of food, shelter and a few good souls. This is a story set amongst an environmental disaster. In an age where the state of our planet is increasingly getting attention in the media, this novel takes a more subtle approach. There is no preaching - no blame allocated, the narrative just shows with gentle restraint. The story is dateless, set in some future nightmare that we hope will never come true. The story works its way into your consciousness, begging the question, what happened? Why did no one try and stop it?

In the novel, the human race has degenerated into a bunch of scavengers and cannibals. Each fighting for survival, they are creatures out of Dr Who, barely human. The novel is a glimpse into a possible future. After global warming and some kind of disaster that has deprived Earth of it's Biosphere.

Although the storyline deals with heavy subject matter, the quality of McCarthy's writing has a lightness of touch. The very nature of his characters predicament is fore-grounded; their essential struggle and humanity. The Man seeks a future for his son, but the Man is dying. They only have each other. What will be his son's future? Many times the Man nearly takes his gun and ends it all, yet he does not. Who would want a child in that sort of world? The Road explores the bond between a Father and his Son, and how it is through our relationships that we find redemption.

There is a small ray of hope at the end of the novel, - a glimmer of a future for the human race, but it will be a struggle for them to survive. Kristy Wark of the Observer called the novel “one of the most shocking and harrowing but ultimately redemptive books I have read. It is an intensely intimate story. It is also a warning.” That about sums up this work. Some books are not beautiful reads, but they are beautiful in the mastery of their message. This is one of those books. A must read for anyone who wishes to look into the worst of our possible futures, so that we can try to prevent it now.