Book #08

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

There is very little plot involved here. Hardly anything happens, but you know what you're dealing with, and the fact that not much happens is almost a relief. The book is based almost entirely on father and son, their relationship, and their varying opinions on survival.

It's deeply moving as a whole. The dystopian setting of the novel brings us into a stark, grey world, depressing us from the beginning. The only shining light we are given is the man's love for his son, which never falters.

Born post-apolcalypse, the boy’s understanding of the world is limited to what he has seen and experienced; very little outside of ash and ruin. A life of constant removal, of looking forwards and backwards all at once. As his father tries to reach some fabled or imagined land which promises a better life, we are helpless in our doubt, and stunned in our admiration.

The skeletal prose is beautiful, evoking the emotional weight of the journey and emphasising the starkness of the landscape incredibly well. The lack of names and the barren dialogue lends a hopelessness, a futility that begs the question - would you rather die?

The realism McCarthy gives to a post-apocalyptic world is absolutely something to be experienced, and the subtle, uncomfortable questions he asks are important ones. I’m glad to have read this again, but grateful to breathe again after finishing.