The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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The Road by Cormac McCarthy is the heartbreaking story of a father and his son who are struggling to survive in a bitter post apocalyptic landscape.  This book takes the reader into a world where people eat people and steal food from the starving without any qualms. Everyone is homeless, everyone is hungry. This man and his son are simply trying to keep each other safe while struggling to maintain a higher moral standard than the crazed survivors who are all around them.

The first nuances that any enthusiastic reader will notice about this book is the grammatical structure and the way Cormac presents his characters. The book is not broken up into chapters the way one might expect. It simply marches on unforgivingly. Also, the father and son are referred to as the man and the boy. Their given names are not mentioned once throughout the novel. Another interesting device that McCarthy used was the lack of “he said” and “she said” in his dialogue. Conversations are carried out without the reader being told which character is speaking, but it is easy to sort it out, nonetheless. This device is reminiscent of that used by Hubert Selby Jr.

A mystery looming over The Road is what happened. Cormac McCarthy never explains what brought about the apocalypse, but one gets the sense that a volcanic eruption of some sort may have been the cause of these people’s woes. Survivors wear masks covering their mouths to protect their lungs from the ash that covers everything and floats through the air. The sun has been blotted out of the sky and it seems like winter is nearly perpetual. All of these things would make sense in the event of a volcanic eruption. However, McCarthy never clarifies and it makes the book more interesting for it. Also, the past of the man and the boy are delved into very little, but you get the sense that they have been at their struggle for at least a few years. Again, McCarthy never truly clarifies and that is one of the greatest things about this book.

The Road is a fantastic novel. There are scenes that will make you cringe, make you want to scream, make you wish you were there to help this man and his young son and moments that will make you want to cry. This book is not only for people who enjoy a good survival story. It is a book for anyone who has ever loved someone and wondered what extent they would go to to keep that person alive. It is a book for anyone who is willing to face the duality of humanity in the pages of a novel. Cormac McCarthy did an excellent job. His insight into the struggle to survive should be applauded.

Shelly Barclay

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