Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Amazon description from Publisher's Weekly:

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.

On a layover in Chicago I found a nice little book kiosk and loaded up on books for the 14-hour flight ahead of me. This book grabbed my attention immediately. I had heard something about the movie which is now being shown world-wide except here in Brunei and I always love a good end-0f-the-world movie so I was keen to see this one. Also Viggo Mortensen is awesome, right? Anyway, I figured if they made it into a movie it must be good and if I'm going to watch the movie I'd rather read the book first. This book before movie thing has worked out so far. I enjoyed Harry Potter more for reading the books first and can you imagine seeing New Moon if you hadn't read the book - disaster!

On my plane, the in-flight entertainment was awful, I was squished against the emergency door exit that jutted out about a foot and a half inside the plane and into the space where I wanted to put my rather long legs, and I kept catching a whiff of noxious toilet fumes from the area next to me....but none of that mattered because I was totally engrossed in this book. I started it as the flight took off and didn't stop reading until every last page had passed before my jet-lagged eyes. And, sure enough, while I was reading the end of the book, tears started flowing down my cheeks so badly I had to turn off my overhead light before the people waiting to use the can noticed the blubbering baby in the window seat.

Let me just say, this book is pretty intense. It isn't so much about the end of the world as it is about what it means to be a father and what it feels like to take care of a son. Of course this is child-care pushed to the extreme. If the father fails to take care of his son here, he will either freeze to death, starve to death, or get eaten by wandering bands of nasty degenerates. It's fascinating to watch as these two characters try to take care of each other. It's tense, it's dark, it's sad, and it is utterly gripping.

I'd also like to mention that I loved the way McCarthy wrote all the dialogue in this book without quotation marks. It is an extra touch that makes this book even more fascinating to read.

The Road won the 2007 Pullitzer Prize and it was chosen to be an Oprah Winfrey's Book Club selection. If you think you might like this book, I think you will.

I'll be adding my copy of this fabulous book to the SRR next week. Let me know if you are interested in being the first one to read it.

5/5 Stars

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