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on 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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on December 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. The only thing sustaining them is their love, their belief that they are the "good guys", and that things will be better once they reach the coast. Their journey is an open nightmare.
One reviewer has commented that The Road would have worked better as a long short story. I understand this viewpoint. But I am glad that McCarthy wrote it as a novel because it will reach a wider audience. I only pray that it will never be made into a film. This black jewel should only be read.
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on August 17, 2007
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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on August 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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on December 2, 2014
I don’t know if Cormac McCarthy’s personal temperament is on the sunny side, but his books certainly are not. Yet, The Road –as bleak as it is—is at the same time so illuminating in mapping out the nature of the bond between father and son –a bond simultaneously strong in its permanence, and fragile because of the vicissitudes of being alive or dead— while also delving into the terms of love and commitment and responsibility that fatherhood entails.

Now, in the same way that feminists, back in the day, used the analytical device of changing the gender of sentences in order to tease out the gender-based asymmetry of power built into the social structure, it seems that if something similar regarding the ethnicity of the characters is done to the book a different, and perhaps by the author an unintended, reading of the story emerges.
The novel is a kind of post-apocalyptic scenario in contemporary times, but unimaginable in real life because mainstream, suburban, middleclass America is no longer threatened by the kind of scenarios which the book portrays, and which the public imagination put to rest with the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union. But imagine that the two main characters are black Africans, and then it reads like reportage out of Darfur with even roaming bands of Janjaweed and systematic genocide (cannibalism, the ultimate genocide). All the elements of the original version are still there, but the new outlook and context elicits a different configuration of sentiments in the reader than the previous one, and that’s somewhat revealing about how we hierarchize human suffering based on the social group to which the suffering belongs.

So, here’s an irony: an underlying premise of The Road is that inclusion, not exclusion, has always been the key to our survival as a species, and yet Darfur is nowadays more remote to many of the humans on the planet than the fictional world envisaged by McCarthy in his book. There you go.
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on April 2, 2007
I read this book last year because quite a few of the magazines I read said it was one of the years 'must-reads'. Man, I'm glad I did. It has haunted my spare thoughts and some of my dreams since. Once you get used to the dialogue without quotes it moves really fast. Where as most other post-apocolyptic (sp?) stories (and movies/TV shows) deal with the time a few weeks or months after a fallout, this deals with the years after. It's narration reflects the bleakness of the environment in which it is set. It deals with believable scenerios (finding an old bomb-shelter in someones yard) and deals with the day-to-day problems of trying to avoid the winter that's sure to spell the characters doom. This book has left a lasting impression on me.
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on August 22, 2013
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 depressing world where man is monster. Actually, Cormac dances the line between both views, and it's not a new theme: humanity is both godly and demonic, both divine and absurd. This desolate landscape is utterly beautiful in its ugliness, and so are the people. As author, Cormac brilliantly combines gritty reality with a fantasy vision that is clearly meant to be no more than an apocalyptic metaphor--not a thrill ride. This is a short, gripping read that will haunt you and you won't forget it. The nameless father and "the boy" offer the ultimate symbolism in the end. To me, the "man" is all of men and the "boy" represents "innocence." These aren't so much people, as ideolograms. Yet, the are real for all that, too. You will read this in one sitting, and won't stop for lunch or dinner. It will not make a good movie, in spite of wondrous visuals, simply because it's not meant to be a movie, but as literature this is art. Yes, if you want thrills and chills, go elsewhere, perhaps to Stephen King's classic THE STAND, but for haunting artistry, don't miss THE ROAD. P.S. Although the lack of "dialogue punctuation" and apostrophes bothered me a little initially, I quickly became use to this style. With a cast of virtually two (there are more than two characters, but only two that really matter), it was fine, almost like reading a play or movie script. The over use of the dialogue "Okay" was also initially annoying, but quickly became a stylism, too. Clearly, that could be the way two people--who have only each other for company, year after year-- might learn to communicate. And Cormac can do it because he's a master. But if I could change one thing, I would be tempted to add "quotations."
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on August 7, 2008
This is my first Cormac McCarthy novel and it probably won't be my last. "The Road" is a stark narrative about a man and his son navigating their way south on an unnamed interstate enroute to the coast after some unknown catastrophic event which has grayed the skies, scorched the earth and left very little life. The only people alive are scavengers who pillage, steal and eat children.

Now, the uplifting part. McCarthy builds up the relationship between the man and his son providing a glimmer of hope in humanity amidst the destruction around them. The dialogue between the two is absolutely remarkable. The humanism is striking.

McCarthy's writing is raw and uncompromising. He likes to contrast extremes: "Human bodies. Sprawled in every attitude. Dried and shrunken in their rotten clothes. The small wad of burning paper drew down into a wisp of flame ... in the incandescence like the shape of a flower, a molten rose. Then all was dark again" (p 47). Though the prose is short and choppy at times, it is effective in showing the simplicity between father and son: "I want to be with you. You cant. Please. You cant. You have to carry the fire. I dont know how to. Yes you do. Is it real? The fire? Yes it is" (p278).

Two symbolic themes that appear throughout include "fire" and "the good people". The fire represents determination and sheer will. To have the fire is to survive at all costs. The good people represents the humanity. All humans are capable of good and evil deeds, especially when survival is at stake, but there is a sense of morality in humans, the desire to do good (but doesn't always win out).

What I got out of the book was that if you are a pessimistic person by nature, you'll only see darkness. If you are optimist, you'll see light. I'd like to think of myself as "seeing the light". Overall, I think McCarthy has written a terrific book, worthy of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
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on June 21, 2007
The unique first third person anonymous writing style takes a little getting used to and after the first few pages I wasn't sure how I would enjoy it. However, once you adapt to the style the book itself becomes impossible to put down. It is horrifying and hopeless but incredibly beautiful at the same time.
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on July 31, 2007
Like books on atheism, post-apocalyptic novels seem to be flooding the market these days. I can't think of anyone better suited to write a post-apocalypse novel than Cormac McCarthy: his lean, quotation-mark free prose makes the reader feel as though his own ears are still ringing from the explosion.
McCarthy describes a landscape almost completely devoid of life and the degradation that inflicts on the survivors is relentlessly bleak.
This is hardly beach reading material, but The Road contains a glimmer of hope that pushes it over the line from depressing to transcendent. Yep, I said it, transcendent. It's that good.
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