The Road

I was in Chapters the other night, browsing through the Father’s Day selections. Among the books on baseball, poker, and fast cars was Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, a novel recommended by Oprah Winfrey herself. It was also 50% off, so I thought I’d pick it up.Without a doubt, it was the most depressing, chilling book I have ever read. Set in a post-apocalyptic America, it’s the story of a man and his son (neither of whom are given a name) on a journey to the coast. There are no chapters – just 287 continuous pages of pain and misery. Here’s a sample paragraph:”On the far side of the river valley the road passed through a stark black burn. Charred and limbless trunks of trees stretching away on every side. Ash moving over the road and the sagging hands of blind wire strung from the blackened lightpoles whining thinly in the wind. A burned house in a clearing and beyond that a reach of meadowlands stark and gray and a raw red mudbank where a roadworks lay abandoned.”Every once in a while they encounter roving bands of cannibals and are forced to run and hide. Without giving away the ending, you can probably assume it does not end well.The sick thing is, I couldn’t put it down – I finished it in a day. In my mind, I was the man and Aidan was the boy. I was the one watching my son waste away to nothing, I was the one doing everything possible to protect my little boy in the face of unspeakable horrors. When I turned the final page, I wanted to go lie beside him, more for my comfort than his.Would I recommend it? Yes, with the caveat that it contains graphic descriptions of depravity that will stay with you for a long time. Remember, Oprah liked it, and so did the nice folks who awarded it the Pulitzer Prize earlier this year.

7 thoughts on “The Road

  1. I was looking for a good book to read on our vacation and considered it but put it back down. I figured it would be doom and gloom. So I ended up choosing A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews, about a teenage Mennonite girl living in Manitoba. It is quirky and funny and easy to read. Probably a better choice for the beach.
    I am interested in reading the new Oprah pick, Middlesex. Sounds very intriguing…

  2. Yeah, Oprah’s all about the sex. I mean, Fall on Your Knees? She’s Come Undone? What a naughty billionaire.

  3. Laura, I’m intrigued you found A Complicated Kindness easy to read. I wouldn’t say from a technical perspective it was Umberto Eco or even John Irving but from an emotional perspective I wouldn’t have classified it as a beach read either. Beach reading for me tends to be fluffy. A Complicated Kindness with its dysfunctional family (and the sex, and the drugs, and the school)in the context of an unforgiving religious community was a difficult read, at least for me.

    Still, it hardly sounds as bleak as Chris’ The Road.

  4. John,
    I can see why it rings a little too true for you. The book, in general, is not a light read and somewhat disturbing (being shunned is not what Jesus would do) but I found Nomi’s character to be very funny and I had a few really good laughs in some places.
    I guess with my sheltered upbringing I don’t quite relate to her or find her to be a tragic character. I think that being shunned was probably the best thing that could have happened to her. Freedom to move on and have some hope for a future away from there! Am I too optimistic?

  5. Holy crap, a book club just took over my blog.

    I haven’t read A Complicated Kindness – we have it at home, so I’ll have to add it to my summer reading.

    If I’d known my readers were so literary-minded, I would have posted my thoughts on other recent reads, such as 10 Wiggly Caterpillars and The Collected Works of Robert Munsch.

  6. I’m pretty sure I could teach a course on Curious George and the Dump Truck or Curious George in the Big City or maybe Curious George Goes Camping or Curious George and the Halloween Party…
    I like the idea of an online book club. I’m already involved in a Book/Lunch/Wine/Eating club and it’s fantastic.

  7. Robert Munsch rocks. I read some to a five year just last weekend. He paid $19.95 to get his little daughter back from the store. Though personally, I’m more of a Clifford the Big Red Dog fan myself.

    And no Laura I don’t think you’re too optimistic re: Nomi. And I agree with your analysis. Just hit a little too close for home for me I suspect.

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