Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Road by Cormac McCarthy



Cormac McCarthy's bestselling novel was the last book I read for the End of the World challenge. I thought I enjoyed reading dystopian and post apocalyptic novels, but after finishing this one, I think it will be a very long time before I pick another one up. While reading this story, I was sucked into the world as it is described by McCarthy, and I had a difficult time shaking the feeling of despair he created even after I put the book down.

Something huge and terrible has happened. Ash covers the ground and floats in the air. Everything is grey, colorless, lifeless. Trees and animals have all died or disappeared. Even the sun can't be seen as it makes its daily journey through the pallid sky. A man and his son slowly make their way to the coast, in hopes of a warmer climate. They have little to no food, no shelter except what they can construct with sticks and an old tarp, and only a sliver of hope that they will make it over the mountains to the coast. If they can make it there, they have no idea what they will find. However, even amid these circumstances, the boy never loses his compassion, and his father does everything in his power to protect and care for his son. McCarthy has written a heartbreaking story about the love between father and son, and how this love can sustain them through the darkness and desperation.

The Road is the first book I have read by McCarthy, and it took me several pages to get accustomed to his sparse writing. I'm not sure if this is his usual writing style, or if he wrote this way to contribute to the tone of the story, but it was definitely effective: "He lay listening to the water drip in the woods. Bedrock, this. The cold and the silence. The ashes of the late world carried on the bleak and temporal winds to and fro in the void...Everything uncoupled from its shoring. Unsupported the ashed air. Sustained by a breath, trembling and brief. If only my heart were stone" (11). McCarthy does not use superfluous words, and every single word has a purpose and contributes to the story. Though this was an extremely bleak story, occasionally there were little bits of light seen through the boy's tenderness towards others and through his father's selflessness.

Have you read any other works by McCarthy? What do you recommend?

Also reviewed by: Nymeth, Trish, Becca, Raidergirl3, Wendy, CJ (please let me know if I've missed you!)

Date completed: September 9, 2008
# of pages: 287
I sure was cutting it close with this one--I finished it with only a week before the end of the challenge! Thanks to Becky for hosting! Of the three books I read, I think The Road will stick with me the longest, but The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood was also very memorable. Orwell's 1984 was a bit disappointing, but I think I wasn't in the right frame of mind to be reading it at the time.

20 Comments:

amy said...

crazy, I am reading this book right now. I like it a lot, but I agree about the dark mood that it puts you in. I read the handmaid's tale a few years ago and I really loved it.:)

Becca said...

When I read this I also wondered if all of McCarthy's books were written with the same weird grammar/sparse writing. I've still never found out...

Anna said...

I read this book awhile ago. It also took me awhile to get used to his writing style, but once I got into the book, I was hooked. I've never read any of his other books, though. The Handmaid's Tale was a great book, too.

--Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

Fyrefly said...

I haven't read anything else by McCarthy, but my roommate has, and he says that the style is pretty much the same across the board. Personally, writing without quotation marks drives me crazy, so I had to listen to the audiobook version of The Road - let the narrator figure it out!

Wendy said...

McCarthy writes brilliantly...I reviewed this book here. I also have read No Country For Old Men which I recommend (my review is here).

Nymeth said...

This was my first McCarthy too. It was certainly a difficult read, and the mood was very bleak, but I loved all the tenderness and compassion you could find among the bleakness. I certainly understand why you want to stay away from dystopian fiction for a while, though.

cj said...

It's an amazing book but I came away with a feeling of hope, too.

My review is here:

http://cjreading.blogspot.com/2007/07/book-review-road-by-cormac-mccarthy.html

cjh

Charley said...

I thought No Country for Old Men was great. It's straight action, dialogue, and incredible amounts of violence. I didn't think I would like it, but I loved McCarthy's no-nonsense style. I hope to read The Road soon, as well as Blood Meridian.

Becky said...

Congrats on finishing up the challenge! I read The Road for this one as well--the challenge I mean. It was definitely one of the darkest books I read for it.

Laura said...

Amy--Thanks for stopping by! Yes, this was a depressing book, but I couldn't put it down. I'm curious to see what you think about the ending!

Becca--Do you plan to read another McCarthy book? At one point, I was going to read All the Pretty Horses, but I never got around to it. Someday...

Anna--Once I got used to his writing, I just flew through the book! It seems that some really dislike his lack of punctuation and proper sentences, but it didn't really bother me too much.


Fyrefly--I'm curious as to how one would read The Road out loud. Was his/her voice very monotone, like the scenery?

Wendy--Thanks for the link--I added your review to the list. I have looked into No Country for Old Men a little, but I don't know if I could take the violence??

Nymeth--yes, there were some very touching aspects to the story. Without them, the book would have been terrible to read.

CJ--I've added your review to my list as well. Did you notice that we chose the same passage from the book in our reviews?

Charley--I usually don't do well with very much violence, but I've heard great things about No Country for Old Men. Have you seen the movie?

Becky--is there any such thing as a light book that would fit into the "End of the World" challenge? I need to look at the other participants' lists and see what they read and thought!

cj said...

I noticed that. It's such an amazing passage. Thanks for adding me.

cjh

Tiffany Norris said...

Interesting review. I haven't read any of McCarthy's work, but No Country for Old Men is on my TBR list.

Fyrefly said...

It's been a while since I listened to the audiobook, but I remember it being pretty much like any other audiobook - different voice inflections for the father and son, a little bit choppy because of the sentence structure, but in general, the narrator did a very nice job of "smoothing" the terseness of the book.

Trish said...

I didn't read through the comments, so sorry if I'm repeating what others have said. The style is pretty characteristic of McCarthy, however it seems like this is THE starkest of the group. I think No Country for Old Men might have the most appeal, although it isn't my favorite (still really liked it, though). The Crossing is my favorite. None of his books are happy, though. :(

Maw Books said...

My mom read this book not to long ago and raved about it. It's been on my TBR for far to long.

Corinne said...

I found your blog from Trish's - I'm going to be reading this soon! I'm stoked. Great review :)

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