It is possible to read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in less than one day, but you will find yourself dwelling in the world he creates (or should I say destroys?) for days, weeks, maybe years to come. I read the final pages with awe. The book, in my opinion, is a masterpiece. The last time I was so completely swept away by a literary work was when I read Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. (Also a Pulitzer Prize winner. Hm.)
I was surprised that I liked this book so much. It took an accummulation of courage for me to buy this book, after all, I’m a romance novelist, and postapocalyptic novels do not promise the cozy, fireside read that I often crave.
But since I believe it’s important to stretch my creative and intellectual mind, I did buy the book and I did read it, and I’m so glad, because sandwiched between scenes of a destroyed, burning, horrific earth are conversations between a father and son–on the road, searching for some warmer, more hospitable portion of the planet– of such tender humanity, love and courage that you can’t help but feel hope for the future despite the apparent futility of their quest.
I loved the way this book was written…the tight, meaningful, beautiful, masterful wielding of words. In their voyage, father and son carry knapsacks containing their essential possessions. The same holds for the words, and even the punctuation, in this novel, each carefully selected for precise meaning and powerful impact. It begins… “When he woke in the woods in the dark andthe cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before.”
Interestingly, the apocalyptic event which destroyed planet earth remains in the background leaving the focus on the boy and his father and their elemental relationship based on a melding of survival and love, both instincts that appear to be bred in the bone. The book offers little hope for long-term survival, though, for there are things that can “not be made right again.”
Still, there is something here to warm the heart afterall. “We are the good guys, right?” the boys asks his father, and we, deep in our hearts, believe that they are, that we are.