“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Although The Road by Cormac McCarthy is not a new title, a surprising number of people have passed it over when perusing the shelves. More often than not, this book gets picked up because the reader says to themselves “I have heard good things about this book,” and then upon opening it up, finds a writing style that offends the seasoned reader with its lack of conversational quotation, nameless characters, and bleak view. Inevitably the book gets carried around the store with the reader as they go back and forth between their immediate first impression and the opinions of their peers, ultimately to be abandoned in exchange for some flowery title that will make the buyer feel like a strong reader and happy at the end of the book. There is nothing wrong with that, but the next time you find yourself thinking of passing this title over, think again.
The Road is hard to get into. The style takes some getting used to, particularly if you are stickler for punctuation. The reader often finds themselves needing to read and reread passages in order to sort out who is who and whom it is that is talking. Confusing as this may be, this book is an absolute must read. Set in post-apocalyptic America the story is fairly straight forward; a man and his son are heading south in hopes of warmer climate in order to survive, and although you never find out what happend to create the setting we are introduced to in the book, the reader is immersed into this world of strained hope and bitter memories presented through reflective eyes. The longing for death and the need to survive, the unconditional love of a father for his son and the light that a child can bring to the darkness leaves the reader in this constant state of personal conflict and heart wrenching contrasts which result in a deep feelings of sorrow and unfounded optimism towards the man and his child.
Amazingly written, beautifully desolate, and hopefully depressing, this book is full of underlying overtones that will tear and mend the reader over and over again. The Road is one of those rare books that will alter your world in a way that you will never be able to go back. Everyone should read this book.
On a side note, The Road was adapted into a movie in 2009 and was shot in the Pittsburgh, Hustontown, Breezewood and Lake Erie areas, in addition to New Orleans and Mount St. Helens. This may not be important to readers, but as a visualization tool and an experiential tool, it is helpful to know. As a Pittsburgher, as a Pennsylvanian, accepting the idea of surviving local falls and winters with limited food, water, clothing and blankets, without shelter and with limited allowance for fire and warmth, gives a Pennsylvania reader a personal perspective and deeper, albeit more depressing appreciation for the characters’ struggles and need to keep walking the road.