The road

by Cormac McCarthy

Paper Book, 2006




New York : Vintage Books, c2006


America is a barren landscape of smoldering ashes, devoid of life except for those people still struggling to scratch out some type of existence. Amidst the destruction, a father and his young son walk, always toward the coast, but with no real understanding that circumstances will improve once they arrive. Still they persevere, and their relationship comes to represent goodness in a world that is utterly devastated.

Media reviews

But McCarthy’s latest effort, The Road, is a missed opportunity.
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With only the corpse of a natural world to grapple with, McCarthy's father and son exist in a realm rarely seen in the ur-masculine literary tradition: the domestic. And from this unlikely vantage McCarthy makes a big, shockingly successful grab at the universal.
“The Road” is a dynamic tale, offered in the often exalted prose that is McCarthy’s signature, but this time in restrained doses — short, vivid sentences, episodes only a few paragraphs or a few lines long, which is yet another departure for him.
Post-apocalyptic fiction isn't automatically better when written by Cormac McCarthy, but he does have a way of investing genre clichés with fine gray tones and morose poetry.
But even with its flaws, there's just no getting around it: The Road is a frightening, profound tale that drags us into places we don't want to go, forces us to think about questions we don't want to ask. Readers who sneer at McCarthy's mythic and biblical grandiosity will cringe at the ambition of The Road . At first I kept trying to scoff at it, too, but I was just whistling past the graveyard. Ultimately, my cynicism was overwhelmed by the visceral power of McCarthy's prose and the simple beauty of this hero's love for his son.
It is a survival guide on how to design shoes out of tarp, replace a shopping-cart wheel, and siphon gas from a stove. McCarthy’s project is to render these objects strange—as remnants of an alien race—until they gain the power to instill awe and terror, a reenchantment of the world. A well-preserved sextant unexpectedly stirs the father, cans of peaches are handled like sacred chalices, and unknown tracks in the asphalt reduce the boy to tears.
“The Road” offers nothing in the way of escape or comfort. But its fearless wisdom is more indelible than reassurance could ever be.
As usual with McCarthy's writing, most of the normal apparatus of English prose is missing: no quotation marks, few capitals, few apostrophes and fewer commas. Sentences are mostly fragmentary, and dialogue is minimal. Typically, McCarthy salts his language with unusual or coined words: "claggy," "disclets," "nitty," "meconium," "rachitic," "salitter," "crozzled," "bolus," "woad," "parsible." Even a Yiddish word, "tokus."
One of McCarthy's best novels, probably his most moving and perhaps his most personal, "The Road" would be the ideal coda to a body of work that now spans 10 books over 40 years.
Through his scaled-down view of a post-apocalypse American east, McCarthy has discovered a rich, engrossing landscape that is distinctly his own. It’s a horrible pleasure to watch the father and his son make their way through it, even as one remains unsure whether it would be more humane to hope for their survival or hope for their gentle death.

User reviews

LibraryThing member janemarieprice
Overly sentimental philosophical musings. Check. Referring to the main characters as ‘the man’ and ‘the boy’ despite obvious first-page recognition of the father/son relationship. Check. Unrealistic amount of scavenging 5+ years after society’s downfall. Check. One more touching plot point in case you can’t tell that ‘the man’ loves ‘the boy’. Check. Vague and mostly unbelievable account of ‘the woman’. Check. Plot that goes nowhere. Check. Hemingway-wannabe brevity of sentence to not so subtly represent the desolation of landscape and human spirit. Check.

Does anyone need me to repeat this 80 times? No? You can understand it after reading it once? What a quaint idea. Oh, and by the way, you’re all going to die some day. There.
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LibraryThing member absurdeist
I've long resisted reading "The Road". I read "The Stand," read "Swan Song," and "On The Beach," been there done that post-apocalyptically. Saw all the "Mad Max" movies too, and "Planet Of The Apes," "Damnation Alley," and "The Day After". So why read "The Road"?

I could leave it at that and skate by free. But then you'd never know the deeper, darker, more troubling reasons for my avoidance of "The Road". So maybe it's time I stopped running and face the muzak.

See, my name is EnriqueFreeque, and I'm a snobaholic.

"Hi, EnriqueFreeque!"

I refused reading "The Road" because...because...just say it, Dude, this is the first step in your recovery by admitting your powerlessness over snobbishness...because Oprah Winfrey read it and loved it. Loved it so much, in fact, she somehow persuaded its hermitic, up-until-then-monosyllabic responding author to actually talk about it, "The Road" -- on TV of all places! -- and did so, as far as I can tell, without holding a gun to his head.

'Great!' went my elitist, condescending line of arrogant (and what in hindsight was, erroneous) reasoning, 'Cormac McCarthy's a bestseller now (he's on Oprah! you can buy his books at Costco and Sams Club! woohoo! housewives everywhere love him! yippee!') -- ergo, the way I saw it, he'd become a sellout, and seeing that damn "Book Oprah Club" sticker on the cover of his book everytime I stocked up on something like several years worth of toilet paper and bottled water made me wanna puke! Where were all these Oprah-ites and housewives, after all, supporting Cormac back in '85 when "Blood Meridian" -- a better book -- came out; back in those dirt poor good 'ol days when McCarthy routinely refused $1,500 university speaking engagements even though he was broke and could barely afford living in a motel room? Never mind I'd never heard of Cormac back in '85 (I was sixteen and obsessing over "Dune"), I was still pissed! I was indignant!

Was I a numbskull? Hell yes.

Because "The Road" (don't know how else to put it) rocks! You already know what it's about. Let me just add "The Road's" so gorgeously grim the Grim Reaper seems like a stand-up comic in comparison. It's got enough dried out corpses and roving bands of raving craving cannibals who'd like to eat your children raw to delight the hardest of hardcore "Dawn of the Dead" fanatics...and yet it has a heart too, compassion, albeit an almost flatlining heartbeat of humanity demonstrated by the unwavering love the father gives to his young son, born into this ruined world, day after hopeless, beyond depressing day on the road; an unimaginably unforgiving, merciless road which originates in Hell and terminates in Hell, with mostly Hell inbetween.

But what a marvelous Heavenly read.
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LibraryThing member mrstreme
I expected a depressing story as I cautiously started Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I have read several reviews of this book and knew it was a father-son story set in a post-apocalyptic United States, and that they would have to defend themselves against hunger, the weather and roaming bands of cannibals. How could this story be uplifting? How could this story be anything by dismal, foreboding and (again) depressing?

I forgot. It’s Cormac McCarthy. A man so inspired by the love for his own son that he penned this enormous tribute to the love between parents and their children. His brevity, language and imagery all left me far from depressed. Instead, I was filled with hope as I turned each page.

Admittedly, I had to get used to the style of this book. There’s no punctuation (not even an apostrophe in contractions), no quotation marks or attributions for dialogue, and many of the sentences lacked the traditional subject and predicate parts. Like how the norms of our society dissipated in this story, so did the grammar rules. After several pages, I agreed with McCarthy’s style. Who needs commas and “said” and even people’s names when you’re dealing with near-fatal circumstances and a constant state of fear? You don’t need any of it. You just need hope.

And hope was aplenty between this father and son. Their spirit kept them alive just as much as their foraging skills. Even when you’re freezing or scrounging seeds, love brings you hope, and hope can keep you alive.

The Road is a book I will never forget. In my opinion, it’s one of the most important books I will ever read. I encourage all of us to take a day or two and read this inspiring tale of how, against all odds, love and hope always prevail.
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LibraryThing member NateJordon
What the hell. Nothing ever happens in this book. Ash. Cold. Hunger. Push a shopping cart. Repeat for a boring ass 287 pages. I don't give a shit who wrote it or what awards he won, I don't believe the hype. This must sound like heresy to Cormac's fans; so be it.
LibraryThing member dczapka
I write this review knowing full well that it won't make a lick of difference because an evening's worth of research has proven that pretty much the entire world loves this book.

Yes, I know it was an Oprah's Book Club selection; yes, I know it won the Pulitzer Prize; yes, I know it has at least a 4-star rating on most every book site around. I still have to say that I don't believe this is a particularly good work -- I'd even go so far as to say, having read several already, that I'm not sure it deserved the Pulitzer.

The one thing I'll agree with from various assessments is that this book has moments of great beauty, of very well-written prose. The problem, as I've noted before in regards to authors like Dave Eggers, is that the style is in service of a plot that is seriously lacking in a number of ways -- not the least of which is that, over 287 pages, almost nothing happens.

I suppose that's to be expected from a bleek, godless world where everyone you meet is likely to want to kill you, eat you, or both. But if this is so, then the ending revelation is not a brilliant touch meant to reinvest hope in a hopeless situation, but rather a deus ex machina that is so contrived as to be laughable.

Character development is painfully sparse, and the dialogue is so repetitive and droning that it's hard to get any real feel for the boy or the man; it feels like they're reading from a badly-written script, not attempting to communicate with each other in a meaningful way. Not to mention that what little snippets of backstory we get, from flashbacks and short dream-like passages, go as unexplained as almost any other seemingly essential background information. Which leaves us with two flat, uninteresting characters plodding through a painful, desolate wasteland, doing very little and, occasionally, getting extraordinarily lucky.

Some will try to explain away the lack of depth in the plot and characterization as a reflection on our hopeless, postmodern times; but I'm here, I've read this and other great postmodern texts, and I have to confess that I just don't get the hype about this one. My suggestion isn't worth very much, but it's to skip this one.
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LibraryThing member Goldengrove
I read this at a sitting, completely unable to put it down. Once I had finished, in bed, late at night, I couldn't sleep for fear but lay watching a tree through the window. This seems to me so much nore plausible a future than those described in most visions of future disaster. Usually, there is some cataclysmic event that kills most of the people, and the plucky survivors scrape a living from the remains of civilization while they remake their world. Here we've destroyed the world all right, but there is no going back. No chance to start again, no cosy community to settle down to rebuilding. The world is destroyed. There is no food, no shelter and no hope. Plant and animal life has gone and with them beauty and peace. The man and the boy struggle on, carrying 'the flame' of humanity that only they seem to recall.
'This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but a whimper'
Incredibly, this is still a book of great beauty and compassion; but a book to make you weep.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
Dark, depressing, creepy, terrifying and compelling. This was a unforgettable book about something I pray will never happen to mankind. A father and son walking through a burnt and ruined earth, searching for a better place even though all appears bleak and desolate.

Along the way they must avoid marauders and lawless bands that prey along the road for loot and food. Scavengers themselves, they must hunt for sustenance, clothing and warmth. Trying to stay safe, but realizing their chances are very slim. The father, knowing his time left is short, is grappling with the question of what to do about his son. For now they follow the road.

Cormac McCarthy has written this post-apocalyptic story in minimalist style, his sparse yet rich prose lingers in the mind, I know this is a book I will long be thinking of. Bleak yet hopeful, for me an extremely rich reading experience.
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LibraryThing member edgeworth
This overwhelmingly bleak and depressing book by Cormac McCarthy won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize. It follows the story of a father and son travelling across the south-eastern United States many years after some cataclysmic disaster (implied to be a meteor strike that resulted in an impact winter). The trees are dead, fires have swept across the countryside, and clouds of grey ash blot out the sun. There is little food to be found, and most other humans they come into contact with are savage cannibals and rapists.

While it may rival Nevil Chute's "On The Beach" for conveying a mood of utter despair, there are moments of lightness to be found; the father occasionally recalls happy memories from times before the strike, though he berates himself for doing so, and the resolution of the book is heartening. Similarly, although the nightmarish hellscape the pair travel through would appear to be devoid of any beauty, McCarthy still achieves a sad kind of poetic description. And the relationship between the father and son can be, at times, heart-wrenching. By far the best line of the book is when they finally arrive at the ocean, and as they stare at it, the father says,

"I'm sorry it's not blue."

Not like that, of course, since The Road doesn't use quotation marks, which was one of two things that irked me. The other was that it got somewhat repetitive after a while; McCarthy probably could have cut 100 pages from this and had the same effect. But then, who am I to tell a Pulitzer-winner how to write?
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
A man and his son set out on a journey across a country which has been destroyed in some kind of apocalyptic event. This event apparently took place several years ago, but everything is still covered in ash. No life remains in the towns, and there are usually signs of a hasty departure, of townspeople fleeing to safety. Very few were spared; bodies appear in buidings, and even in the middle of the road. It is not clear how or why the man and boy survived up to this point. Now they are on their way south, hopeful of finding a better place.

Survival skills are paramount. Bands of robbers roam the land, looting and killing. Survivors often resort to cannibalism. The contents of homes and stores have usually been ransacked by travellers and bandits. Yet the man and boy explore every building they come across. Occasionally they find something: blankets, clothes, or food. At the same time, MacCarthy's describes in great detail these once-fashionable houses, in a way that made me question why we place so much importance on our homes and other material possessions.

The man's deep love for the boy permeates every sentence in this book. The emotional intensity is evident both in their will to live and in the ways they care for one another. MacCarthy manages to convey this deep feeling through the most basic dialogue, as in this example when they have just come across a bountiful store of food:

Go ahead, he said. Don't let it get cold.
What do I eat first?
Whatever you like.
Is this coffee?
Yes. Here. You put the butter on your biscuits. Like this.
Do you think we should thank the people?
The people?
The people who gave us all this.
Well. Yes, I guess we could do that.

The most haunting aspect of this book was the boy's mother's death. She apparently committed suicide when it became evident the world as she knew it would be destroyed. She preferred to end her life; the man chose to remain with his son and try to survive. When considering what path I would choose, I realized how difficult this decision could be. There really is no correct answer.

This is a beautifully-written book that will remain with me for a very long time.
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LibraryThing member JimElkins
Not a major novel. People (nine thousand reviewers on Facebook's Visual Bookshelf! More on Amazon!) compare it to Mad Max, science fiction, millennial fantasy, Camus, the Civil War... of its many debts, Beckett is the most important. The book is a pastiche, veneered with environmental and topical anxieties. It won't last.

It's also pretentious, lugubrious in its self-importance, weighed down with preposterous threadbare mysticism, anemic with lack of detail, hazy in its descriptions, complicit with ill-informed apocalyptic cults, evasive and coy in its apparent environmentalism, lazy in its structure, sleazy in its exploitation of the trope of the helpless boy, unrepentant in its machismo, misguided in its literary precedents, ridiculous in its proximity to Dungeons and Dragons, and really nauseating in its desire for Hollywood.

If you want a post-apocalyptic novel, read Arno Schmidt's "Dark Mirrors" in the collection "Nobodaddy's Children." It is so much better that you'll be embarrassed you even read McCarthy.
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LibraryThing member CasualFriday
In The Road, an unnamed father and son are trying to survive in the aftermath of a worldwide catastrophe that leaves the earth literally dying. They are heading south in attempt to escape worst of winter, but the world is cloaked in winter. Finding food is difficult, as all animals and plants are apparently dead by this time. There is danger from bands of survivors who have their own ideas where to find food.

We never know what caused the disaster, just as we never know the characters names or the precise time and place. It's not about geopolitics or man's evil nature. It has interesting things to say about god or the absence of god, but it's not by any means a religious parable.

Bleak? Yes. Monotonous? Yes, at times, deliberately so. But it is remarkably readable. And the character of the little boy is brilliantly rendered.

Haunting doesn't begin to describe this work. Read it, please.
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LibraryThing member ctpress
The Road, the man, the boy. A cold, burnt, godforsaken landscape that stretches forever. This post-apocalyptic story takes us on a lonesome and horrific journey. What catastrophe has happened we don't know, but all animal life seems to have died together with plant life.

The fathers reason for existence is his boy - this love drives him on - yet he has lost almost all hope - he knows what it takes to survive but how can he survive and at the same time remain human? What future is there for this boy? The boy in his innocence still reaches out to people he meet, while the father has to teach him to stay away from people who are all potential cannibals. Can they trust anyone - and what is life reduced to without human interaction, love, trust?

Also the idea about God comes and goes. The presence of God and the absence of God.

Are you there? he whispered. Will I see you at the last? Have you a neck by which to throttle you? Have you a heart? Damn you eternally have you a soul? Oh God, he whispered. Oh God.

The writing is sparse, yet powerful. It's not a pleasant read, but thought-provoking. It certainly has made an impact on me.
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LibraryThing member katylit
An excellent novel about a man and his son in a post-apocalyptic world trying to survive as they journey south to what they hope is a warmer climate. The horrors, challenges and suffering they endure is described in stark, concise language, evocative of the world in which they are living. And yet this dark, dismal, horrific story is uplifted by the loving relationship of parent and child.

An amazing story that I will carry with me for a long time.
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LibraryThing member ElectricRay
This is a truly beautiful novel.

The scenario in which McCarthy places his characters - a post apocalyptic wasteland - seems so hackneyed that nothing of value could be wrung from it, but McCarthy's sparse elegance and unrelenting cinematic vision draws nourishment from this dead metaphor just as his main subject, an unnamed man (in this regard, as in many, McCarthy invokes his "Western" roots) draws nourishment from handfuls of dead chaff scratched from the floor of a barn.

McCarthy's writing is really exquisite: it these post-ironic times it is almost a guilty indulgence (and is that ever ironic, given the content!) to be treated to such master craftsmanship in the construction of simple, stark sentences. The imagery is consistently arresting, whether it be of wallpapered mansion walls bloated and buckled with years of seepage, the heavy sea heaving and lagging, like some ashen, gunked-up pit of slag, or of an emaciated person likened to a human skull inhabited by an animal. (I'm trying my best to paraphrase, but alas I'm no Cormac McCarthy)

I found poems repeatedly came to mind: not just Eliot's The Wasteland, but Shelley's Ozymandias, in the shape of the buckled mansions, abandoned cities and wrecked, over-blown road, and Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, in the visualisation of an environment so unrelentingly wet, yet utterly devoid of any life. There is no hint of even a new shoot of vegetation - let alone a life force like drinkable water: for all the rain and snow, the ash contamination means the couple are continually on the point of dying from thirst.

A few commentators have remarked on the "saccharine" ending, but I found no such thing: As a father, I found the father's dilemma as the book concludes was almost too unbearable to read, and the irony of the child's eventual resolution only accentuated the book's grim process.

Beautiful, haunting, and lyrical.
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LibraryThing member terrybain
I sort of hate how much I love Cormac McCarthy, and though this book is no exception to how much I hate loving Cormac McCarthy, it's like the one I hate loving the least. That is, I was so moved and torn and broken by the end of the book that I very nearly was in love with loving this very dark, terrifying, gorgeously horrific book. Even nonsensical, overtly ornate, impossibly convoluted passages throughout couldn't spoil my good-bad-adoration-loathing. There should be a warning on the cover of this book: Whatever you put into you head is there forever.… (more)
LibraryThing member deslivres5
I picked up this book, mistakenly thinking that it was in the zombie genre. It wasn't about zombies at all (well, at least not in the classic horror movie sense), but it was pretty disturbing and heart-wrenching. Made me want to run out and buy tons of canned goods, a sturdy pair of boots and a weapon.
LibraryThing member GBev2008
A well written story of a father and son holding out hope in a bleak and terrifying future. I was about ready to burst into tears and give it a five star rating until the disappointing "deus ex machina" ending ruined those plans.
LibraryThing member AlisonY
I don't generally read (or enjoy) science fiction / horror / post-apocalyptic fiction (call it what you will), and whilst McCarthy has always intrigued me I never thought I'd enjoy his writing. So I was wrong on all counts...

This is an incredibly tender, heartbreaking book, and whilst it's set in a post-apocalypse world for me that was almost secondary. This is a novel about the fierce bonds of love; a loving father ploughing onwards on a journey to nowhere solely for the sake of his son. A young boy full of terror and fear desperately digging deep for the courage that his father deserves to find in him.

Cormac McCarthy conveys so brilliantly the utter hopelessness of their situation. The world is destroyed, the few people remaining have largely turned violently dangerous, and there is no escape from the desolation, cold, hunger and fear. There is no reason to go on, yet they are driven onwards by a father's unrelenting love.

I found McCarthy's writing to be much more accessible than expected - almost spare. I get the impression that this is not necessarily the case for all his books, but I loved this, and I'll certainly take a risk on another McCarthy book in the future.

4.5 stars - I'm going to be walking down 'the road' in my mind for quite some time to come.
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LibraryThing member JonArnold
As minimalist a novel as I've ever read - there's no names, dates or sense of time passing, the only place name that comes up is relatively common. That lack of a date, location or background gives the novel a timeless feel, and means it won't date as badly as contemporary novels, and gives it a mroe universal appeal than if any specifics or context had been provided.

An uncompromising, often harrowing read that lingers in the memory long after the last page is turned. Apparently there's a film version in the works, I'd be surprised if Hollywood has the cojones or will to translate this as written, I can certainly see them wanting to change the ending.
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LibraryThing member zhyatt
This book is dark, cold, and depressing; yet, there is an ethereal sense of hope that permeates throughout.
When I say dark and cold, I mean it more than for most books referred to that way. I have struggled with depression and anxiety in the past, and I had to set the book down periodically to keep going.
In the end, however, this book "carried the fire" through to the ending, and I don't regret reading it.
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LibraryThing member bardsfingertips
Of all of the encounter's I have read & heard of this book, I think the word most oft repeated was "Sparse." I'll have to agree with this description.

So, aside from a review of the book just yet, it made me think: Sparse—is this why the book did so well with critics and regulars readers alike? There is this trend due to so much information coming down the pipeline that in order to express it all, we've all developed our own Newspeak of shortening both words & information in order to express it all. It has even gotten to the point that we expect this when receiving information. Now, I am certain this is not the author's intention, and is merely just his style, but there is a clever ploy being played here. The book in question was sparse enough to be read very quickly, with an average reader burning through the pages faster than reading nearly anything else out there just barely reaching 300 pages in length…but the subject matters that the story contained were poignant enough to get the emotional mechanics moving within each individual reader.

I got to thinking: had this book been more detailed and included quotation marks and developed whys & hows of the setting & characters, would it be as well received as it presently is? I have no idea…that’s just my open question unto the world concerning The Road.

My own feeling is that I was sucked into the book. I had enough glimpses of what had happened to the world and why no one at all could be trusted to keep me riveted. I am also a bit biased because I enjoy the end-of-the-world genre. I feel like it is something I could even write one of these days… This book has further inspired me to someday reach that goal.

The Road is also a very bleak book. The two main characters, The Man and The Boy, are always on the brink of dying from something (usually starvation). Though you never find out the names of these two, one does developed a kinship with them as they struggle to survive, as they love each other as a father and son, as they find such a simple task of staying warm as one of the hardest things to achieve…

A movie based on this book is going to be released soon. It is going to be interesting to see how true they remain to the story; because there are horrors seen and experienced here that when seen on screen make shock and dismay.

There is real love in this book, the love between a father and his boy. That is what really, above all else, make this book a special one.
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LibraryThing member whirled
Oh, how I wish I'd picked something else as my introduction to Cormac McCarthy. Some of the reasons this book left me cold:
1) Annoying, inconsistent punctuation;
2) The total absence of background information regarding how the father and son came to be wandering through a post-apocalyptic hell;
3) The niggling suspicion that if the author's name was Joe Bloggs instead of Cormac McCarthy, more people would be saying, "What a wanker!" rather than "What a masterpiece!"
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LibraryThing member sherrington
I approached this book rather carefully, expecting it to be subtle and moving. Instead, I found repetition and pretentious minimalism. The conclusion seemed to undermine the entire quest. McCarthy is not the first post-apocalyptic writer, as he seems to think. His devotion to environmental concerns seems well, hazy and unclear. I am very disappointed that this book picked up the Pulitzer.

That said, I confess I don't usually read post-apocalyptic novels and probably began this one with something of a bias. The idea of telling this story through a profound relationship is compelling, though I don't think that relationship succeeded in the book. The moments of horror were well done.
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LibraryThing member xicanti
A man and his son travel through post-apocalyptic America.

Whenever a Big, Earthshaking, Oprah-Loved-It-And-Everyone-Must-Read-It-Or-Else book comes along, I expect to be the lone voice of dissent. I’m going to hate it. It’s going to flop for me. I’m going to wonder what the hell everyone else is thinking.

Of course, I almost always love it.

This time, I figured I’d skip a step and just expect to love THE ROAD from the get-go. And wouldn’t you know it, but I can’t say as I did.

I did like it. I found it readable and evocative and all that jazz. But I’m almost certain I’ll have forgotten all about it by this time next week.

I feel like some sort of an emotional cripple. Everyone else on the planet thinks THE ROAD was a total sob-fest, filled with poignant contemplations on the nature of love and devotion and meaning and spirituality and seven million other wonderful things. And I mean, I know it was, but I rarely felt it.

I got it. I may be an emotional cripple, but an intellectual dunce I ain’t. I done my time on the literature front, my dears. I done it good. And I’ll tell you, you could get a couple dozen paper topics out of this book wicked easy. You could spend a week or two discussing it in class. There’s a lot to mull over here, a lot to think about and paw through and ramble on about. I can think of about a thousand discussion questions I’d like to take a class through.

I mean, how many people have mentioned McCarthy’s sparse prose in your (glowing) reviews? There’s a paper or two just in the way he’s pared everything down. Why do some contractions deserve apostrophes while others dont? How do the absent quotation marks influence our reaction to the dialogue? How do the many brief scenes drive the narrative forward? What’s going on with that one chunk of first person in the sea of third? Would you that the nameless characters, divorced from pre-apocalypse social norms, allow us to insert ourselves into the text? Etc. etc.

Then there’s the world itself. Why do you think McCarthy never tells us just what happened? Do you think it’s important to know how society reached this state? How does McCarthy show us the tension between the father/son duo and the rest of society? Between the man and the boy themselves? In what ways does hunger drive the story forward? How would the book be different if the man and the boy traveled through a warm wasteland? Is THE ROAD science fiction masquerading as literature or literature masquerading as science fiction? In what ways does it coincide with and diverge from our expectations of both literature and science fiction?

So there’s a lot here. It’s an intellectually stimulating book. There were moments, too, when I came this close to realizing what everyone was on about. (There’s a particularly good scene where the man and the boy cower in the gutter while a cannibalistic convoy rolls along past them. It chilled me). I could tell you all about how the story's many layers appealed to me, and how I found that McCarthy's approach drove the story onwards in some interesting ways. But at day’s end, I feel all right about passing this book along. I'm pretty sure I'll try more of McCarthy's work in the future, but I won’t need to read this one again.

(A slightly different version of this review originally appeared on my blog, Stella Matutina).
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LibraryThing member KerryBean78
It took me a very long time to get through this book. It may be because I was expecting so much that I was so disappointed in the end. I was expecting to learn much more about what was going on and felt unfulfilled at the end.


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