Sunday, October 21, 2007

BOOK: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I finished. I still have the little pit or knot in my stomach that I had during the whole reading. I can see why this book won the Pulitzer Prize for literature this year, and why it was an Oprah pick, with her usual depressing and dreary themes. But that makes it sound like I didn't like it, and I did, I liked it a lot.

I've been reading reviews of this book all year, and I know a lot of people have already read this book. So I knew about the strange punctuation and didn't notice it because I had been warned. In fact, in dewey's review at the nyt notable book review blog, she made an excellent analysis about how the level of discussion and punctuation varied directly with the hunger of the main characters.

Plot outline: A man and his son, never named, are travelling and surviving in a post apocalyptic America, summarized wonderfully by someone somewhere (I can't find who) as ash,ash,ash, forage,forage,forage, and then more ash, forage, sleep. This was very bleak, colorless, and depressing, and I just kept thinking: What would I do? How could people survive? Would you want to? And yet, I kept picking this back up, and I read it fairly quickly, in a few days. And every time, I was immediately transported to this terrible world, with 'bad guys' and cannibals, and fear, and survival. The father is doing everything he can, to survive and protect his son.

A few thoughts and questions:

- Plastic is not all bad, since it was one of the only things to survive. If there hadn't been plastic items for them to scavenge, they would not have found much
- What have the father and son been doing for all the years since the son was born? Have they been walking all this time? Have they met nobody safe in all this time?
- What happened to all the bullets in the gun? Because there were more than one, I believe, at some point.

caution: possible spoilers
Some thoughts which may be spoilerish, because I just went back and read all the reviews and discussions at nyt notable book blog

Were the people at the end good or bad?
I think there were a lot more good people around, and more survivors somewhere, but the father was too afraid to find them. He never tried to find if anyone they met was safe, he automatically suspected everyone. Quite rightly in most occasions, and people trying to survive have to do whatever they can, but the fact that he avoided everyone, I don't think he was ever going to find the good people. His son was more open and hopeful, and so, he would find the good people.

I did like the theory about the ending being the father's happy ending to a story - I hadn't thought of that and it is very interesting.

But there has to be more religious overtones to the story, because of the apocalypse ending of the world. How does God, and religion, continue in a world like that? Is there a place/need for it? And I think the book shows there is a need, we need to trust people, and good will triumph.


  1. What a great review, Elizabeth! I hope to read this before the end of the year (fingers crossed).

  2. There were three bullits in the gun; one for each member of the family. Mother took her bullit, but the other two were spent defending their lives instead of taking it.

    I gave a program last Tuesday on Readers Bill of Rights where the first right is NOT to read. I used The Road to explain why one should stop and not read for a little while.

    Nothing stuck after I finished this book, it was just too heavy on my brain. I was comparing everything to my Road experience! I finally picked something humorous and lite such as Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! :D

  3. wendy - It doesn't take long to read, and stays in your head

    maggie - I remember that pigeon book! I'm reading vampires in Victorian England now - far from the road.

  4. I want to read this book, but then again, I don't want to...don't remember ever being so on the fence about a book before...thanks for your review.

  5. You know I've never been tempted to read this book until I read your review. Don't you know that I have no more room for another book?! ;)


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