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The Road [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Cormac McCarthy
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
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Hardcover, Deckle Edge, Sept. 26 2006 CDN $18.81  
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Book Description

Sept. 26 2006
A searing, postapocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece.

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

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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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Road Trip Through Hell March 29 2007
Cormac Mccarthy's The Road is a dark, post apocalyptic journey through the remnants of the world as we know it, with the faintest flicker of hope at the end.

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
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BRILLIANT DARKNESS Dec 14 2007
I am not a Cormac McCarthy fan. I tried reading All The Pretty Horses several times but the downer neo-Hemingway style put me off and I could not sustain interest. Then last Christmas a friend in Europe sent me The Road as a gift. I had heard the reviews and was not prepared to read such a dark, bleak novel. Or not right away. But a few days ago I picked it up and read it in one, four hour sitting. I felt that if I stopped reading this horrific story, I would not have the courage to go back to it.
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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I scarcely know where to begin to comment on this book. It is powerful and demanding of your emotions. It is beautiful and poetic in it's writing style. Many other reviewers have summarized the plot so there's no need to reiterate. The way in which the tale is told however; is so moving that it actually caused me physical pain due to anxiety, empathy, anticipation.

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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! Aug. 14 2007
I finished reading this book a couple of days ago, but it has not yet got out of my mind. It is an unsettling book to say the least. Like all great literature, it is not an easy book to read, not because the writing is difficult (the writing is brilliant!) but because it plays all our emotional buttons. An environmental catastrophe on Earth and its aftermath becomes the foreground were a father's attempt to retain his own and his son's humanity weighs against the pure instinct of survival. This is not a book for the light of heart. But a book to ponder on what makes us all human, and what are the long-term consequences of our environmental choices today. Great, great book!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars McCarthy's prose is bleak and sad. Yet this is a book about a parent's...
I read this book by accident. Strange but true.
I was just getting into audiobooks. A friend lent me an old Mp3 player with a few titles on it. Read more
Published 7 days ago by C
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Superb writer! Gripping read.
Published 1 month ago by Peter Oliver
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Not sure what all the hype was about.
Published 2 months ago by Simon Hinchcliffe
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly wonderful, horrible book which you’d like to forget but you...
Reading “The Road” for a second time, this time for my book club, it took me back to my secondary school English Literature ‘O’ level (the now defunct examinations that English and... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to Despair
I've read all my life. First for entertainment and escape. Then for culture and escape. I have now reached a point where it is solely for escape. Read more
Published 6 months ago by The Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars great
i saw the movie and reading the book was just as good. even better than the movie in fact. truly a great read
Published 6 months ago by Jakob
5.0 out of 5 stars Misunderstood by detractors, a brilliant book
The RoadThe handful of poor reviews seemed to miss the point. The repetitive plot points and desolate wasteland illustrate optimism and the endearing force of human love, not a... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Derek Armstrong
5.0 out of 5 stars A book about father-son love in a world gone to hell
Every Cormac McCarthy book is a heavy read in some ways, and the Road is no different. This one seemed even tougher though, as my own son was about the age of the boy in the novel... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Greg
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone
A book that describes what surviving after an apocalypse would be like in great detail. However I just don't have an interest in the subject matter. Read more
Published 14 months ago by A customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it
I haven't read any other McCarthy books, but I loved this one. Burned through it quickly because I found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading! Read more
Published 14 months ago by EMR
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