The Road – Cormac McCarthy

February 3, 2010 § 20 Comments

He said the right dreams for a man in peril were dreams of peril and all else was the call of languor and death.

A story about a father and son as they travel together in a dead, ashen world, The Road is a book that has to be read slowly, without hurry, and left to linger between paragraphs just so we have time to absorb whatever little is told to us, and imagine in our own heads what is not.

I really don’t know if I’ve read any other book as depressing as this one. Everything was just so dark, so completely hopeless. There was nothing fancy about the language McCarthy chose to use, and there was just nothing to be anticipated. Reading the book was like being sucked into this really dark gloomy place; you want to claw your way out of that black abyss, but the thick darkness embraces you in a very weird, twisted sort of way.

The names of things slowly following those things into oblivion. Colors. The names of birds. Things to eat. Finally the names of things one believed to be true. More fragile than he would have thought.

The book is about a journey that the father and son take, but somehow, I almost felt like the journey didn’t matter as much as the relationship between them. I almost didn’t care what was waiting for them at their next stop, I didn’t care if they would find food or shelter or wood for fire. I didn’t care for those things, unless it would mean something to their relationship.

The story is told mainly from the father’s perspective. We’re told what the man is thinking, what he does when the boy is sleeping, and what he dreams about. But interestingly, it is not the man, but the boy who becomes the focus of the story. As I read the book, I started to feel like I was choosing sides. I began to feel what the boy might be feeling, although we are never once told about it. When I read about what the man is doing, I’m thinking about what the boy might be thinking. When the boy says ‘Okay,’ I’m thinking of the many different emotions that he could be experiencing.

But when he bent to see into the boy’s face under the hood of the blanket he very much feared that something was gone that could not be put right again.

In the end, I don’t think I really followed them in their physical journey. But I definitely felt the connection. McCarthy wrote this book in such a way that what he didn’t tell became the most important part of the whole story. I don’t know how he did that. The writing style was a little difficult to adapt to in the beginning, but once I got used to it, I was taken on a journey on the emotional level.

There were times when he sat watching the boy sleep that he would begin to sob uncontrollably but it wasnt about death. He wasnt sure what it was about but he thought it was about beauty or goodness. Things that he’d no longer any way to think about at all.

Rating: 4.5


§ 20 Responses to The Road – Cormac McCarthy

  • mee says:

    Oh you know I didn’t like the book much. But I’m glad you that you loved it! The story is definitely memorable.

    • Michelle says:

      I know you didn’t. And quite frankly, I didn’t think I’d like it much myself, at the beginning. But the book just caught me unawares, and was just swept up by it for the rest of the way.

      • Mark David says:

        I like to think that I understand why you didn’t like it Mee, actually I often say that this is not a book I’d recommend to parents with little kids (not that you have one). But there really is something about that dark and spare language that McCarthy used in the book that really hit me. It’s like I felt every page of the book. And I understand what you’re also saying Su. In my case, the feeling was like that of dying slowly. I had this constant desire to hope, but then something at the back of my head also keeps saying “who are you kidding?”.

        And the ending, well, it was quite an ending. So masterful in every page. Really glad you liked it Su 🙂

        • Michelle says:

          You’ve nailed it. It definitely felt like dying slowly. And painfully hoping against all hope that something good will come out in the end.

        • mee says:

          Well, see that’s another thing. I thought the ending was completely out of tone with the rest of the book. And I didn’t have a problem with the subject matter. I had problem with the language. I actually would recommend it for fathers, because of that father-son relationship theme in the book.

        • Michelle says:

          I think I know what you mean about the ending, Mee. It was quite abrupt for me too, the sudden change of tone.

  • Aimee says:

    it killed me, this book. it was so desolate, i couldn’t even think of watching the movie…but i am certainly looking forward to reading his other works…


    • Michelle says:

      I know. I had thought I’d make this a book-movie thing, and had planned to watch the movie after. But now, I really don’t think I dare.

      • Mark David says:

        Same in my case. I really admire as an actor, but I really don’t think I can watch this story on screen. It’s like what Michael Kindness of Books on the Nightstand said about his own reservations on watching the film even though he loved the book. He said that at least with a book, you have some control of what your mind will visualize, you can choose to soften it a little bit or even try not to picture it when you know that it’ll be too heartbreaking to bear. But with a movie, somebody already did the visual rendering for you.

        • Michelle says:

          I know. And I agree with every word Michael Kindness said. And I think it’s exactly this reason that keeps me from watching horror films, but conversely, I just love all the depressing books in the world.

  • aloi says:

    wow, you are churning out these reviews like crazy, michelle! i’ve had this on my TBR for ages. i may have to sked reading this when i am chipper or in a contemplative mood. i don’t know if i can stand reading a depressing book at the moment.

    • Michelle says:

      This book tore me up a bit. I sat and atared into nothing just to catch my breath, even while I was reading it really slowly already.

      PS: I am reading a lot lately. =)

      • Mark David says:

        You ALWAYS read a lot more than I do 🙂 One of these days, you better teach me how to read as fast as you do.

        • Michelle says:

          It’s not always such a good thing, to be reading so quickly. I tend to miss some important pieces of the book sometimes.. But it does make me happy that I’m reading so many beautiful books. =)

  • Am glad you liked this book. I absolutely loved it when I read it. It’s so dark, and haunting, and I was practically shuddering at the thought of this post-apocalyptic future.

    • Michelle says:

      I don’t know how to love a book like this, to be honest, but it does stay in my head for a very long time. It’s that kind of story that just doesn’t go away, and that’s what makes it so good, I think.

  • Vishy says:

    Nice review! I have heard that Cormac McCarthy’s books are all bleak and ‘The Road’ is one of the less bleak ones 🙂 From your review it looks like the less bleak one for McCarthy is very bleak for the rest of us!

    I also have this question that others seem to have. How do you read a book a day?? That too, most of which is literary fiction? (I didn’t see any reviews of graphic novels or YA literature in the near past) This is really amazing! I admire and envy you for your reading speed 🙂

    • Michelle says:

      The Road is less bleak? Really? I should try his other works then, I’m always in for dark and gloomy.

      Actually, it’s only because I’m currently unemployed and have all the time in the world. When my blog slows down, it probably means I’ve finally got myself a job, which would be a good thing. But otherwise, I do read quite quickly, and I generally just love literary fiction over much else. Thanks. =)

      • Vishy says:

        Wish you all the best on the work front! But I hope the book reviews keep coming 🙂 I am enjoying reading them like your other readers.

        • Michelle says:

          Thanks for the wishes. I hope there won’t be too much of a difference in how much I read either, but it’s a long shot.. =) Thanks for coming and leaving comments though, much appreciated.

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