Homer's Travels: Book: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road"

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Book: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road"

My latest read was an Oprah Book Club recommendation. The Wife gave me some guff about this since I am not a fan of Oprah. After reading good reviews, I decided not to hold this against the book. I'm glad I didn't.

Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" is a haunting journey through a post-apocalyptic America. The book follows an unnamed father and son who are following a road. Their destination is unclear but the father says it is to the south to find the "Good Guys." The road leads them to the sea. Along the way they hide from the "Bad Guys."

The world McCarthy paints is shrouded in ash, falling like snow. Everything is grayed by the ash. The sun, obscured by the smoke and ash, provides little warmth. He never names the disaster. There is only one small paragraph that even suggests what the disaster was. Since radiation is never mentioned I suspect a supervolcanic eruption or an asteroid collision is the most likely cause of the devastation. Whatever the cause, human civilization has come to an end as all plant and animal life has died out, killed by the lack of sunshine and clean water. The survivors that remain, desperate in their starvation, have turned to cannibalism. These are the "Bad Guys."

As grim as this world is, hope continues to struggle as the father urges the son to "carry the fire". I see this as passing civilization from the older generation (the father) to the new generation (the son). The story illustrates the interdependence of the future with the past. The son is totally dependent on his father for his survival but the father is just as dependent on his son. Without his need to keep his son alive, the father would soon have lost his will to live. The son acts as the father's conscience as well, keeping him human.

The book is dark. There is no humor. Hope seems to be dwindling and may soon be dead and buried. The world before the disaster has faded into a meager few flashbacks and the haunted dreams the father and son have while sleeping in the cold, starless dark. Despite all this, the book is not depressing. It just IS. The book is about the journey. The destination, what ever it was, is never reached but the ending was expected. As I approached the last pages I actually slowed down a little because I didn't want it to end. There was so much more story to tell.

I read this book in four days. It was difficult to put down and the fact that the book is not divided into chapters gave you the sensation of trudging down the road along side the father and son.

The Godson also reviewed this book and you can find his opinion here. I really enjoyed this book. Highly recommended.


  1. It's on my book shelf. The friend who gave it to me was horrified by it but wanted someone else to read it to commiserate with.

    I'll have to get around to it.

  2. JaG: I can understand why she/he was horrified but I guess I must be morbid since I found it fascinating in a weird sort of way.

  3. Sounds like a good read, though perhaps not for this upcoming stormy weekend, methinks...

  4. JaG: You'll like it then.

    GH: Looking out my window right now I can imagine that it looks just like what the father and son experienced - no sun and a sky full of dark foreboding clouds. No rain here yet though.

  5. I have the feeling that I have read something just like this before. Does anyone else?

  6. Wimps Golf: Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    I don't think I'm well read enough to say.