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The Road (Oprah's Book Club)
Release Date: March, 2007
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 prose, The Road is a post-apocalyptic masterpiece, one of the best books we've read this year, but in case you need a second (and expert) opinion, we asked Dennis Lehane, author of equally rich, occasionally bleak and brutal novels, to read it and give us his take. Read his glowing review below. --Daphne Durham Guest Reviewer: Dennis LehaneDennis Lehane, master of the hard-boiled thriller, generated a cult following with his series about private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, wowed readers with the intense and gut-wrenching Mystic River, blew fans all away with the mind-bending Shutter Island, and switches gears with Coronado, his new collection of gritty short stories (and one play). Cormac McCarthy sets his new novel, The Road, in a post-apocalyptic blight of gray skies that drizzle ash, a world in which all matter of wildlife is extinct, starvation is not only prevalent but nearly all-encompassing, and marauding bands of cannibals roam the environment with pieces of human flesh stuck between their teeth. If this sounds oppressive and dispiriting, it is. McCarthy may have just set to paper the definitive vision of the world after nuclear war, and in this recent age of relentless saber-rattling by the global powers, it's not much of a leap to feel his vision could be not far off the mark nor, sadly, right around the corner. Stealing across this horrific (and that's the only word for it) landscape are an unnamed man and his emaciated son, a boy probably around the age of ten. It is the love the father feels for his son, a love as deep and acute as his grief, that could surprise readers of McCarthy's previous work. McCarthy's Gnostic impressions of mankind have left very little place for love. In fact that greatest love affair in any of his novels, I would argue, occurs between the Billy Parham and the wolf in The Crossing. But here the love of a desperate father for his sickly son transcends all else. McCarthy has always written about the battle between light and darkness; the darkness usually comprises 99.9% of the world, while any illumination is the weak shaft thrown by a penlight running low on batteries. In The Road, those batteries are almost out--the entire world is, quite literally, dying--so the final affirmation of hope in the novel's closing pages is all the more shocking and maybe all the more enduring as the boy takes all of his father's (and McCarthy's) rage at the hopeless folly of man and lays it down, lifting up, in its place, the oddest of all things: faith. --Dennis Lehane
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Posted by ! Libertarian Lady of Mystery ! on 7/7/2008
A sad , destroyed world of people returning to their animal instincts. This was a chilling , disturbing & sad story. I cried.
Posted by Marcus N Brotherton on 11/2/2009
You have to realize how absolutely superlative this book is.
McCarthy has created his own literary rules, stripped the language, taken away the paragraphs, the chapters, the commas, the apostrophes, even many of the verbs, and left ... simply ... words. He names no one, not even the main characters--they're simply "the man" and "the boy."
McCarthy may be one of the few writers in modern America who can get away with this and succeed. His writing slows you down. To read it you can't hurry. You'll miss its depth.
The Road is not a pretty story. It will leave images in your head for days. But it's so well worth reading.
When all is desolate in the world, you still have love, and that love reflects the spirit of God. That's what this book is about.
Posted by JLind555 on 3/28/2007
"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.