The Road Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Sep 26 2006
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Best known for his Border Trilogy, hailed in the San Francisco Chronicle as "an American classic to stand with the finest literary achievements of the century," Cormac McCarthy has written ten rich and often brutal novels, including last year's bestselling No Country for Old Men, and this year's The Road. Profoundly dark, told in spare, searing prose, The Road is a post-apocalyptic masterpiece, one of the best books we've read this year, but in case you need a second (and expert) opinion, we asked Dennis Lehane, author of equally rich, occasionally bleak and brutal novels, to read it and give us his take. Read his glowing review below. --Daphne Durham
Guest Reviewer: Dennis Lehane
Dennis Lehane, master of the hard-boiled thriller, generated a cult following with his series about private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, wowed readers with the intense and gut-wrenching Mystic River, blew fans away with the mind-bending Shutter Island, and switches gears with Coronado, his new collection of gritty short stories (and one play).
Cormac McCarthy sets his new novel, The Road, in a post-apocalyptic blight of gray skies that drizzle ash, a world in which all matter of wildlife is extinct, starvation is not only prevalent but nearly all-encompassing, and marauding bands of cannibals roam the environment with pieces of human flesh stuck between their teeth. If this sounds oppressive and dispiriting, it is. McCarthy may have just set to paper the definitive vision of the world after nuclear war, and in this recent age of relentless saber-rattling by the global powers, it's not much of a leap to feel his vision could be not far off the mark nor, sadly, right around the corner. Stealing across this horrific (and that's the only word for it) landscape are an unnamed man and his emaciated son, a boy probably around the age of ten. It is the love the father feels for his son, a love as deep and acute as his grief, that could surprise readers of McCarthy's previous work. McCarthy's Gnostic impressions of mankind have left very little place for love. In fact that greatest love affair in any of his novels, I would argue, occurs between the Billy Parham and the wolf in The Crossing. But here the love of a desperate father for his sickly son transcends all else. McCarthy has always written about the battle between light and darkness; the darkness usually comprises 99.9% of the world, while any illumination is the weak shaft thrown by a penlight running low on batteries. In The Road, those batteries are almost out--the entire world is, quite literally, dying--so the final affirmation of hope in the novel's closing pages is all the more shocking and maybe all the more enduring as the boy takes all of his father's (and McCarthy's) rage at the hopeless folly of man and lays it down, lifting up, in its place, the oddest of all things: faith. --Dennis Lehane
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Violence, in McCarthy's postapocalyptic tour de force, has been visited worldwide in the form of a "long shear of light and then a series of low concussions" that leaves cities and forests burned, birds and fish dead and the earth shrouded in gray clouds of ash. In this landscape, an unnamed man and his young son journey down a road to get to the sea. (The man's wife, who gave birth to the boy after calamity struck, has killed herself.) They carry blankets and scavenged food in a shopping cart, and the man is armed with a revolver loaded with his last two bullets. Beyond the ever-present possibility of starvation lies the threat of roving bands of cannibalistic thugs. The man assures the boy that the two of them are "good guys," but from the way his father treats other stray survivors the boy sees that his father has turned into an amoral survivalist, tenuously attached to the morality of the past by his fierce love for his son. McCarthy establishes himself here as the closest thing in American literature to an Old Testament prophet, trolling the blackest registers of human emotion to create a haunting and grim novel about civilization's slow death after the power goes out. 250,000 announced first printing; BOMC main selection.(Oct.)
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Top Customer Reviews
Destroyed by some never quite explained catastrophe, the Earth has become nearly inhospitable to life. A thick ash smothers everything and hangs in the sky, making a cold, quiet moonscape where things had once been green and alive. Through this nightmare world travels bands of desperate survivors, including an unnamed man and his son. The father's plan is to travel south to warmth and the ocean, where he hopes to find their salvation. Along the way they are confronted by cannibals, thugs and others as adrift as they are, a Darwinian struggle reminiscent to some degree of the lost boys in The Lord of the Flies, but far more sinister and disturbing. In particular, the image of the captives of the cannibals- who are being eaten bit by bit, shrinking grotesquely but kept alive so their flesh remains fresh- is a vision of Hell right out of Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights. Calling themselves "the good guys," the father and son still carry a gun- with two bullets- to end their lives if needed rather than suffer a crueler fate. The father also struggles with the ethical dilemma of having to "unteach" his son about compassion and empathy, afraid that the boy- who wants to help those equally in need- will only die in the attempt. This "every man for himself" situation is in stark contrast to everything the father believes, and how the boy has been raised. It's this struggle to hang on to the noble aspects of humanity while surrounded by the worse that makes the novel insightful, haunting, and a riveting read.
Mark Wakely, author of An Audience for Einstein
In this novel, McCarthy's simple writing style works. The planet is reduced to a cold, burnt cinder where the sun rarely shines because of a cloud cover of soot. Nothing of the world we know functions anymore and those humans who still live have only one goal: survival. Like the depressing gray days, McCarthy's language is basic and merges narrative with dialogue. Sometimes he blends words, like ruststained or diningroom or waterbuckled which oddly reflects the roadway that had been melted with corpses of refugees. Not using any quotation marks, or chapter breaks, or character names, the writing is grim and relentless. Yet it draws the reader into an incinerated landscape of cannibals and death where no birds sing or fish swim.
The story follows a nameless father and young son as they make their way south along deserted roads in what was once the United States. The boy was born after the disaster so only knows this bleak world. It is late autumn and grey snow falls along their trek to the gulf of Mexico. They push an old shopping cart with their scavenged food and tarps and try to avoid marauding body hunters. Both of them are emaciated and sick and they often do not eat for days.Read more ›
I'm a new mother, my son having just turned one, and I suspect that the agony of this novel was enhanced by this. If you are a parent it is impossible not to envision the plight of the main characters in your own family context. It was gripping. I wanted to stop reading because I felt I didn't want to know what would happen to "the boy" and "the man" but I had to keep at it.
Not being a fan of Oprah, I often avoid her book club picks...but in this case, I'm glad I didn't and I encourage other Oprah-skeptics to follow suit.
Most recent customer reviews
Bleak in a good way and hard to believe but even better than the movie.Published 4 days ago by Brad Sharpe
A very dark book to read; if you love dystopias, you will appreciate this book.Published 2 months ago by MJL
The Road is a grey, tragic, beautiful story of a father and son wandering through what is left of the world. Read morePublished 4 months ago by chris
I wasn't a fan of this book. Normally i can sit down and read a book in two days but this one took me three months. I found it boring and the writing style was not to my liking. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Kyra
“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy is the powerful post-apocalyptic story of a father and his young son, struggling to survive in the aftermath of an unspecified calamity that has... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Rashmi Pluscec