The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

Alfred A. Knopf, 2006

TheRoadCoverThis stunning 2006 novel stands apart from Cormac McCarthy’s other work.  A nameless man and his nameless ten-year-old son journey south to the coast (where, exactly?) in the tenth year following the total devastation (nuclear?) of the land through which they pass.  They travel on foot, pushing a shopping cart containing their belongings.  The horrific landscape that surrounds them and the depraved humans, with whom they try – unsuccessfully – to avoid confrontation, make up the entire terrifying story.  The boy is afraid, although he has no memory of an existence any more normal than this.

This dark, post-apocalyptic tale is written sparingly, with no chapters, no quotation marks around dialog, and with scene breaks on nearly every page.  Don’t be put off by its unconventionality.  The colors of the novel are gray, pale, black.  When I finished reading The Road on Christmas morning in 2006 I was stunned; I literally couldn’t move for a few moments.  It was that powerful.

Franz Kafka’s philosophy of fiction best describes this novel for me:  “I think that we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us … We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide.  A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.”

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