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The Road (Oprah's Book Club)
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Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0307387895
ISBN-13: 9780307387899
Publisher: Vintage
Release Date: March, 2007
Length: 304 Pages
Weight: 1.5 pounds
Dimensions: 7.9 X 5.1 X 0.9 inches
Language: English

The Road (Oprah's Book Club)

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Best known for his Border Trilogy, hailed in the San Francisco Chronicle as "an American classic to stand with the finest literary achievements of the century," Cormac McCarthy has written ten rich and often brutal novels, including the bestselling No Country for Old Men, and The Road. Profoundly dark, told in spare, searing pros...
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Customer Reviews

  A Dark, Lyrical Meditation on Love's Dedication

"The nights were blinding cold and casket black and the long reach of the morning had a terrible silence to it."

"...Creedless shells of men tottering down the causeways like migrants in a feverland."

I neither buy nor read collections of poetry. I can count the poems I know, at least the non-limerick ones, on a single hand. I'm not a fan of poetry, and I truly see much of it as overblown, a good thing taken to a ridiculously inflated extreme. This book isn't poetry, but it's also not pure narrative. It's somewhere in the gray between, and I enjoyed every single page of it.

McCarthy had me on the 14th line when I read "granitic beast." No, I didn't have to be told this was a reference to stone. Its use here, early in the work, deliberate, familiar yet uncommon, communicated to me exactly what this book would be about, and more importantly how it would be told, and I couldn't wait to ingest it. The contemplated and intentional use of this word in this place told me of texture and color and temperature, and its context told me of fear, uncertainty, cruelty, and the close specter of menace. I was hooked before the first page was done.

I enjoyed this book's writing style immensely, its story simple and told in a manner that came to me clearly, instantly creating depth with a minimum of prose. Words like "envaccuuming," and phrases like "iscocline of death" were absolutely brilliant--I bite my hand melodramatically wishing I'd written them. This highly evocative austerity was mirrored in the father's and the son's conversations, in which so little was said, but in which I was seeing absolutely clearly the cant of a head, a look in the eyes, the faintest curl of smile. I was reminded very happily of the magnificent work of James Dickey, especially To the White Sea (Delta World War II Library).

And the wonderfully lyrical story unfolded. No, I didn't need quotation marks or crucial apostrophes. There was never any question what was happening, who was saying what or where the story was headed. Honestly, do they care about proper punctuation in the wasteland? I didn't miss a thing, and the modestly different narrative presentation didn't faze me in the least. In fact, it reminded me instantly of e e cummings. Ah, reluctantly back to poetry. Later on when the pair made it to the sea, and the prose touched on "...shuttling..," instantly T. S. Eliot's classic came to mind.

I very much enjoyed the father, an object lesson in survival and just what that takes. He not only was educated, but also remembered it and knew how and when to apply it. He was inventive, attentive and observant, and deliberately learned from every experience. He anticipated, adapted and showed the courage to take immediate action, having thought through consequences beforehand. He was no MacGyver, but from the opening minutes of the crisis he knew what was at hand; his survival, and his son's, were due to his seriousness and intelligence and his application of them.

This book is not about the end of the world. It's not about nuclear winter, man's inevitable murder of the planet, the inherent barbarity of man, none of that. This book is about the only thing that matters, a parent's love for a child, and what at the absolutely basic level of survival you can and cannot do for those whom you treasure most, what you will go through and what you must decide upon for them to have all they need and deserve. This book is about the rapture and the agony of parenthood. It took me two nights to read this book, and both nights after midnight when I reluctantly put it down, I went upstairs to re-tuck-in my daughter and my son, and to kiss them in their sleep, through the silent tears of adoration this book brought forth.

This unpleasantly dark, ominous book reminded me of a few crucial things: My daughter and my son are the most incredible and important things I have ever done or will ever do. Their well-being is never assured, and I can never, ever stop looking out for them and teaching them what I know of their world. One day I will move on, and they must be ready when that happens.

Bottom line: This is not a cheery, happy, frothy and light read. It is cold and hard and painful. But there is joy in it. Be ecstatic it is only a story, that tonight you sleep in a bed in a house, with food, water, and your dog on the hearth. Be aware of and happy that you are reading this expertly rendered, a magnificently crafted work of highly evocative prose, and look forward to the next one, whatever the subject.
  Brilliant and endearing and ultimately uplifting.

THE ROAD is a tremendous achievement, multi-layered, yet with enough surface story to attract mainstream readers. It resonates with classic allusions, simple parables, endearing moments, aphorisms, even some old testament language a la BLOOD MERIDIAN. In fact all of McCarthy's earlier novels are echoed here.

As with NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, all of the doomsday clocks, both personal and communal, stop at 1:17, a reference to John 1:17 in the Book of Revelations. As with his previous novel, McCarthy names love as the one value worth living for in this vale of tears, the last thing to go.

Comic relief is provided in the form of Ely, the only named character in the book. Readers will have to judge for themselves whether they think that Ely is the prophet Elijah, Christ in ragged disguise, Buddha on the Road, or just a funny old man who speaks in koans.

THE ROAD will remind some of Jose Saramago's BLINDNESS, which won the Nobel Prize for that deserving author. Others will liken the beautiful writing to the very best of Ernest Hemingway--with the understatement one finds in BIG, TWO-HEARTED RIVER and THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA.

Cliched? Not in this reader's eyes. Of course the great themes here have been rendered before in the classics, and books are made of books. I immediately recognized Homer's ghosts of hades in here, pointing and pleading and crying for help.

What is the quote in THE ROAD on page 110? "Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it." Which resonates to a quote from Marcus Aurielius, saying that a man ought to live his life as if borrowed, and that he ought to be prepared at any time to give it back, saying--here, I thank you for this life which I have had in my possession.

I found it uplifting. A testament to the condition of humanity and the nature of death and the riddle of existence. Universal themes, the greatest themes in our literature.
  Strangely Difficult To Put Down - Easy Read - Grim Story

This is not a happy story or a happy place. The writing is so good it's almost unrecognizable. You just don't encounter authors with an actual vocabulary these days. The story is depressing and may affect people in a negative way. Oddly, I wanted to keep reading even though I wasn't necessarily enjoying the story. In the end I'd have to give it five stars, simply for the excellence of craft.
  A Road Trip Through Hell

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
  The future is now...

"The Road" is a work of stunning, savage, heartbreaking beauty. Set in the post-apocalyptic hell of an unending nuclear winter, Cormac McCarthy writes about a nameless man and his young son, wandering through a world gone crazy; bleak, cold, dark, where the snow falls down gray; moving south toward the coast, looking somewhere, anywhere, for life and warmth. Nothing grows in this blasted world; people turn into cannibals to survive. We don't know if we're looking at the aftermath of a nuclear war, or maybe an extinction level event -- an asteroid or a comet; McCarthy deliberately doesn't tell us, and we come to realize it doesn't matter anyway. Whether man or nature threw a wild pitch, the world is just as dead.

The boy's mother is a suicide, unable to face living in a world where everything's gone gray and dead. Keep on living and you'll end up raped and murdered along with everybody else, she tells the man before she eats a bullet. The man and his son are "each the other's world entire"; they have only each other, they live for each other, and their intense love for each other will help them survive. At least for a while.

But survival in this brave new world is a dicey prospect at best; the boy and the man are subjected to sights no one should ever have to see. Every day is a scavenger hunt for food and shelter and safety from the "bad guys", the marauding gangs who enslave the weak and resort to cannibalism for lack of any other food. We are the good guys, the man assures his son. Yet in their rare encounters with other living human beings, the man resorts to primitive survivalism, refusing help to a lost child and a starving man, living only for himself and his son, who is trying to hold onto whatever humanity he has left. It's in these chance encounters with other people, even more than their interaction with each other, that we see them for who they really are. The boy is a radiantly sweet child, caring, unselfish, wanting and needing to reach out to others, even though this bleak, blasted world is the only environment he's ever known; the father, more cautious, more bitter, has let the devastation enwrap him until all he cares about is himself and his son. And to hell with everybody else.

Their journey to the coast is an unending nightmare through the depths of hell and the only thing that holds them together is their love for each other. When one is ready to give up, the other refuses to let him. I won't let you go into the darkness alone, the man reassures his son. But ultimately, as the boy finds out, everyone is on his own, and all you can do is keep on keeping on.

McCarthy has proven himself a master of minimalism; with a style as bleak as the stripped terrain the man and the boy travel through, but each sentence polished as a gem, he takes us into the harsh reality of a dying world. The past is gone, dead as the landscape all around them, and the present is the only reality. There is no later, McCarthy says. This is later. Deep down the man knows there is nothing better to hope for down the road, even though he keeps them both slogging down it, only to keep his son alive. And we keep slogging down that road with them, hoping against hope that around the next corner or five miles down the line, maybe there is something, anything, to make survival worth while.

Living in such a hell, why would anyone want to survive? The mother made her decision; she checked out long ago. We come to the end of this book totally drained, enervated, devastated, but curiously uplifted. Because as long as there is love, McCarthy tells us, maybe there is something to live for, and as the book shows us at the end, maybe there is a even little bit of hope.

Judy Lind