The Road by Cormac McCarthy tells the post apocalyptic story of a man and his son travelling place to place looking for food and trying to keep out of harm’s way. Both characters are unnamed as are all of the people they meet. The man tries to provide for his son by scavenging what’s left of a ruined America and to keep his faith alive by convincing him that they are the good guys even though the things they have to do to survive are often harmful to others.
Much has been written about Cormac McCarthy’s prose in The Road and I must agree that it is magnificent. Spare and poetic, McCarthy is able to keep the reader’s interest focused on the action of The Road and to move the reader’s heart with just a few words again and again. I joked to a friend of mine that the prose in the American novel is getting so spare that it should be sold at a discount, but in The Road Cormac McCarthy earns his money. The book is entertaining and moving and the spare prose adds to both.
In a strange sort of way, the story echoes Earnest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. In both an adult male cares for a younger male, tries to provide nourishment for the younger male’s body, mind and soul. In both the adult only partially succeeds because the society around him and the forces in the world that act upon him make it impossible to fully provide for the boy. There are more parallels but I’ll avoid a spoiler. In The Road, McCarthy’s characters travel south to the sea itself, where they find a wrecked ship they can scavenge for supplies, and where they would once have found Santiago, the old man from The Old Man and the Sea, preparing for his own voyage south across open water. Both men seek to bring back or bring about a prize for the boy. In The Road the man hopes that the sea will provide warmth, will be blue, will be a place of hope for the boy. Santiago hopes to bring back a fish big enough to sell for enough money to turn his life around. The ends are similar; disappointment prevails, and only the struggle itself really matters. The motivation behind the struggle and the fact that both men are so dedicated to their “sons” that they will go to such great lengths for them are what bring so much emotional depth to both stories. It’s the father son relationship that matters; it’s the only thing left in the end.
This post first ran on my old blog Ready When You Are, C.B. which has become lost to cyber-space through no fault of my own. I’ve decided to migrate the best of my 1500 post to this new blog which will take quite some time.
This review first ran years ago shortly after The Road came out in paper back. I was still learning how to write up a blog post. I think it’s pretty, though a few of the sentences do go on–I used to have a think about using too many and’s but now I use too many dashes. In any case, this review says what I wanted to say about the book. Reading it now, I’m reminded why I found The Road so moving.