The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Amazon – The Road

GoodReads – The Road

Author – Cormac McCarthy

A searing, post apocalyptic 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.  – Goodreads Synopsis 

Cormac McCarthy has great skill in waxing poetic during his descriptions of the bleakness of a post apocalyptic land. I mean check out this quote:

He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.” 

There are so many times during this novel that you really go to appreciate how McCarthy places you right in the thick of it. The raw telling of a survival is fantastic. What is not fantastic… is that he does not like quotation marks! As many times during the story where I felt overwhelmed at how immersive the story is, I felt equally overwhelmed when I had to think “Who the fuck said that part!? The father or the son!?”It really throws a monkey wrench into the mix when you have to pause if the dialogue is not clearly marked or if it is not flowing as it should.  I honestly thought that I had a bootlegged ebook version that I downloaded because of this, and I thought that I was going to DNF this one immediately after starting(I was very close). But… I am glad that I stuck through till the end.

Being immersed in this wasteland, you feel the emotions that the characters are going through. I love the style. I love the bleakness. I love that the characters did not even have names, and that bit really adds power to what McCarthy is portraying.  You feel happy when they find food, and you get worried when they are starving, but really what is the point? In this perverse world the only thing you are doing is just delaying the inevitable.  Every step of the way a new horror unfolds; maybe it is the cannibalistic barbarians with sex slaves in tow, or maybe it is a newborn baby on a spit roasting over a fire.

The grimdark tone is really what did it for me though. I am also a huge fan of post apocalyptic fiction too! (Especially in video games)  I did not love The Road, but it was still a good ride. I thought the ending would have been different than what turned out. I was expecting the son to die from some sickness, and that the father would have shot himself right after. (I was kind of hoping that is how it was going to end.) Either way,  the ending was still good enough for me. Now I need to go check out the movie adaptation!

 

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44 thoughts on “The Road

  1. The Road is definitely one of those books that you enjoy for the poetry and the tone and the writing in general, and not quite so much the plot points. I felt pretty much exactly as you did my first read-through, but by the third time it has become one of my absolute favorite books.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I loved this book- one of my all time favorites but the movie, like all films based on books, was not a great feat (in my opinion). Thanks for your awesome post, it made me want to read it all over again!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Exactly. The movie is pretty drab and can’t touch the poetry of the novel. It takes all the poetics and metaphor and makes them too literal. All nuance is lost, and it becomes just another dystopian thriller if one darker than most.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Nicely done, Chaz. I have read the book and have not seen the movie. It is a haunting story. I was not disappointed by the ending, although in the context of the overall story I found it a bit more difficult to believe.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I almost DNF this as well. Although, I quite liked the ending, but now seeing the ending you had in mind, I think it would have been a far kinder ending… but this book isn’t about kindness just existing, it was about making kindness and humanity even in the grimmest of situations where any semblance of goodness has dissolved into the need to survive. It is definitely a book that makes you think. It kinda reminds me of Carl’s message in the last season of The Walking Dead.

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  5. I haven’t read the book but your review and excerpts from the book seem really intense. I’ll add it to my endless to – read list! If you liked the book so much why do you want to watch the movie?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I usually just like to see how close a movie adaptation is. From what these comments are telling me…I think I should probably never watch it.

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  6. I read this book a few years ago and I found it to be shocking and there were parts of it that were just awful. It was depressing and dreary and I decided not to watch the movie, even though I really like Viggo Mortensen as an actor. I do like Cormac McCarthy’s writing style though and I would definitely read more of his work.

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  7. Thank you for visiting my blog! 🙂 Learned what DNF is now by checking urban dictionary haha I still have the urge to finish every book I started. I definitely need to get better at deciding when to stop reading if I don’t see the value anymore.

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  8. Did not read the book. The movie was quite powerful. The stark visuals and grey tone filming give a sense of cold desolation, infinite suffering, and fear. It definately ended different from what I expected. Viggo was great. Depressing. Possible. Terrifying.
    Good review Chaz.

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  9. I had to read this book for one of my Literature classes and I cried like a baby. I also cried like a baby when I watched the movie. I know the narrative can be quite overwhelming and messy but the story is so beautiful and so full of meaning. It’s a masterpiece, in my opinion (:

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  10. Thank you! Both for visiting my new blog and for finding the lack of attributed speech in the novel annoying! I thought I was just being a pedant… great description, by the way: ‘grimdark’. I haven’t come across that before. I’ve also reviewed the novel and, like you, didn’t love it… T

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  11. Oh yeah the lack of question marks does throw a wrench in the works. It was still a very immersive and powerful read- so it’s good that you’re glad you stuck with it. I still haven’t seen the film adaptation though. Brilliant review!

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  12. I couldn’t get more than halfway through this book. I had a really hard time following the dialogue and I just couldn’t bear with the endless bleakness of it all. My running thought was, what’s the point of all this? You summarized it well for me “the only thing you are doing is just delaying the inevitable”

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  13. Chad,

    What did you think about the ending? And I don’t mean when the boy goes off with the family (the same family that will most likely rape and eat him). I mean the paragraph about the trout in the streams.

    To me, that’s the real ending of the novel, and it can be read two ways. I’m curious to see what you thought of it.

    Also, I disagree that the lack of quotation marks “throws a wrench” into the novel. Yes, it can be confusing, but exchanges between human beings most often are. The way people write dialogue in traditional literature — where one person speaks set off in quotation marks, then a pause, then another person speaks using quotation marks — doesn’t happen in real life. People very often don’t wait for the other person to finish speaking before they start speaking, or they’re talking about different things even though they think they are having a conversation about the same issue. McCarthy doesn’t want to present us as we are in film, he presents us as we are, and what we might become if we continue the kind of environmental degradation we’ve been involved in since the 17th century.

    I’m glad you liked the novel. It’s not McCarthy’s “best,” that is certainly Suttree or Blood Meridian. However, it is his most important novel.

    Best,
    Luke

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I read this book on a train ride from Seattle to Portland and was absolutely mesmerized! The tone of it still stays with me. Eerie and haunting. Thanks for writing about it and reminding me about a great novel. Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I read this, I remember thinking the same thing about the quotations. But I also found the fact that McCarthy doesn’t use possessive nouns like “the boy’s ball” but says “the boy has a ball” interesting. Really adds to the story

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I read this book for the first time last year. It was one of the most unique writing styles I’ve ever read though a tad difficult to get used to at first especially with the dialogue. It certainly was depressing and I think reading it before I watched the movie helped; I likely wouldn’t have had much appreciation for the movie without reading the book first. I thought the movie was decent but I’m biased because I like Viggo Mortensen a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This is so strange ..what timing , today I was going through some books I had bought at a tag sale before the holidays and I put them aside and The Road is one that I bought and thought I should start this one.

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  18. This is a book that I REALLY want to read! I remember watching the film with my dad when I was younger and when I found out that it was based on a book I knew it was one that I had to read. I now wish I’d of read the book before watching the film but I don’t really remember much for the film as it was a long time ago so I’m looking forward to giving the book a read.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’ll have to let me know what you think and how it compares to the book. I’ve got the book on my shelf, I might need to give it a go soon, I’m just a really slow reader

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