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The Road

Cormac McCarthy's epic about a father and son who must survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

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Spare, uncompromising look at the bleakest possible situation.

  • Nov 18, 2010
  • by
Whew! THE ROAD is a draining, exhausting, bleak, gut-wrenching, bleak, fast-paced, bleak novel. Did I mention it was BLEAK?

The book is 279 pages and they fly by. I think I read the book in 4 hours...I could hardly make myself put it down. I wouldn't say I "enjoyed" reading it...but it was thoroughly gripping, as spare and uncompromising a novel as you would ever want to read.

It tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world, where the sun is never seen because the atmosphere is covered by ash. Ash that has painted the world gray, killed all plant life and probably all animals. More specifically, it is the story of a father and son ("the Man" and "the Boy") who are traveling on foot to the coast, pushing a shopping cart with their meager belongings. They move slowly, are almost always near starvation and must constantly be on the alert for cannibalistic bands of humans who will stop at NOTHING to stay alive.

The book is mostly a day-to-day depiction of the mundane yet important tasks they go through to stay alive. Filtering water. Finding clean blankets or new shoes. Eating seeds or long decayed apples. Never talking about the past.

The boy, whose age we don't know, but I would guess around 8...has never seen the world as it was. His father tries to blot out his memories and tries to come to grips with the fact that the world he is trying to survive in has no hope. The two talk often of how preferable death would be...yet they fight hard to stay alive.

It is the story of the love between the two...although the word "love" is never articulated. It is a survival story...but the while the plot hinges a great deal on foraging for food, the heft of the story comes from their scrambling towards a psychological / mental survival. How can the human spirit endure having nothing to live for?

The recent movie CHILDREN OF MEN depicted a society crumbling under the weight of knowing that no more children would be born. They had nothing to live for, because there was nothing to pass on. THE ROAD takes this feeling and amplifies it to an almost intolerable degree.

The story has brief moments of respite, when things go reasonably well for a short time. It's amazing what a relief these moments are...because the rest of the book is BLEAK. (The last couple of pages offer the absolute tiniest smidgens of what might be taken for hope. That's as "happy" as it's gonna get.)

I just finished the book yesterday, but I know I'll have a hard time shaking the feeling it left me with. While this is not an easy book to endure...it is very well written and it is an amazing achievement. Its perceptions of the state of these two main characters is so convincing. I highly recommend the book, even to a younger audience (say about 13 and above.) There's no bad language, it's very fast moving and I think could change the way a young person feels about the power of books to leave an important impact on their lives.

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More The Road (book) reviews
review by . November 17, 2010
Whew! THE ROAD is a draining, exhausting, bleak, gut-wrenching, bleak, fast-paced, bleak novel. Did I mention it was BLEAK?     The book is 279 pages and they fly by. I think I read the book in 4 hours...I could hardly make myself put it down. I wouldn't say I "enjoyed" reading it...but it was thoroughly gripping, as spare and uncompromising a novel as you would ever want to read.     It tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world, where the sun is never seen …
review by . February 27, 2011
posted in SF Signal
I recently finished Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD, a highly praised and award-winning novel that was made into a film that spent all of maybe two hours in theaters. It is also a novel that was appropriated by SF fandom as either "yet another SF novel not marketed as SF because publishers are afraid of the label" or "yet another mainstream author who just doesn't get it trying to write science fiction". My personal conclusion is - The Road is neither. Perhaps an analogy …
review by . July 04, 2010
There's something timeless and persistent about the dystopian novel.   Whether it's Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World, or Zamyatin's We, stories detailing the consequences of losing all we know and fearing that what we've dreamed will never come to pass are a powerful lure for the popular imagination.  Humans are resilient creatures, and we take a special interest in tales which paint a picture of human fortitude in the face of daunting circumstances, …
review by . July 14, 2010
   A friend loaned me this book just before the movie came out.  He told me that it was gut-wrenching, but I don't think he could have prepared me for just how incredibly bleak this book really is.    Of course I read this book as fiction.  I didn't look for any kind of meaning or try to analyze it very much.  My friend is an English and Philosophy major, so I figure he got away more out of this than I did.   I read this book during the winter.  …
Quick Tip by . October 22, 2010
It will pull you through an emotional wringer, mess you up, wring you out, stomp on you, rewash and rewring ... read it. Understand it is an emotional journey that goes to beautiful extremes.
review by . July 02, 2010
This was probably one of the darkest and potentially depressing books I've ever read, yet the prose is so beautiful that it did not have that effect on me. I found some passages so absolutely beautiful, I had to re-read them several times just to savor them. The story takes place in a dark, burned, post-apocalyptic world and follows the lives of a father and son who are trying to stay alive, find food, and keep moving. Exactly how this apocalypse happened remains untold. Years afterward, the …
review by . June 20, 2010
It's hard to imagine our world devoid of sun, vibrant color, or plants of any kind. Yet The Road does conjur up these almost lifeless images and takes readers on a journey through such a landscape: gray, cold, hard, and wearying.  Life does exist, however, even in an environment as non-supportive as Cormac McCarthy has penned: a father and son.      The father and son are at the heart of this story, and their walk through a bleak, …
review by . September 30, 2010
Pros: Plot, control, authentic father, young son discussions.      Cons: Nothing.      The Bottom Line: Not the McCarthy to start with for a newbie, but a good read all the same.      Edited to correct some embarrassing grammatical mistakes      Imagine after the Fifth Symphony, Beethoven (whose hearing at that point allowed him to play the piano like the master he had always been) wrote a very simple, 4 minute piece …
review by . July 06, 2010
The Road is by no means a happy book, although the companionship and support displayed between a man and young boy is heartfelt and inspiring. With the bleakest outlook on survival and no food, these two are ever running, ever hiding from other's who would steal their provisions.       At times, the simplest can of pears brings more joy to the character's lives than a large sum of money would bring to most people today. The hardships endured by a young boy and the …
review by . June 30, 2010
Seeing the previews for the film version of The Road made me want to check out the book prior to seeing the movie. The book is basically about a father and son on a quest to survive a post-apocalyptic world assumingly in the future (although I have heard some critics say the wasteland may be a metaphor for something else, which I don’t understand). With his wife dead and his world falling apart, the father must lead his son to the coast in hopes to find a better life. I was totally blown away …
About the reviewer
I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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The Road is a 2006 novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy. It is a post-apocalyptic tale of a journey taken by a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blasted by an unnamed cataclysm that destroyed all civilization and, apparently, most life on earth. The novel was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 2006.

The Road follows an unnamed father and son journeying together toward the sea for many months across a post-apocalyptic landscape, some years after a great, unexplained cataclysm. It is revealed via flashback that the boy's mother, pregnant at the time of the disaster, committed suicide after the birth of her son because of the ultimate certainty of her and her family's death by starvation or at the hands of the roving bands of cannibalistic survivors. She preferred to reclaim some semblance of power by choosing the manner of her death. The man carries a revolver with two bullets meant for protection or suicide in a worst case scenario.

Civilization has been destroyed and it seems that all life except for a dwindling population of human beings is extinct. The sun is obscured by ash and the climate is cold: "hard enough to crack stones." Plants do not grow. As the father and son travel across the landscape, they encounter horrific scenes, including an army of roving cannibals and their catamites and slaves; an infant roasting on a spit; and a basement...

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ISBN-10: 0307265439
ISBN-13: 9780307265432
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Genre: Horror, Apocalypse, Science Fiction
Publisher: Knopf, Vintage
Date Published: (September 26, 2006)
Format: Novel
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