Monday Book Review: The Road December 21, 2009Posted by pupfiction in Book Reviews.
Tags: Apocalpyse, audiobook, book review, books, Cormac McCarthy, movie, The Road
I recently had the life-altering experience of listening to The Road, written by Cormac McCarthy, and read by Tom Stechschulte. I say this in all seriousness. While the plot of The Road could be summarized in a few short sentences, its key scenes revolving around the search for supplies and discussions of death, that does not stop it from being a great read. In fact, it is these devices that shape and reinforce the barren world McCarthy creates. Though the book might not be chock full of action, it lures in the reader with heart-pounding trepidation, suspense, and love for the protagonists. Because McCarthy creates such sympathetic characters, concerns and dialogue that might have seemed trite coming from another author gain power throughout the text, as we become one with the small family, living their fears and fighting their struggles.
The majesty of this book lies in two accomplishments: the description of the father-son bond and the setting. Clearly, the setting is integral to the plot as this is a post-Apocalyptic novel (no spoilers there, I believe). While the setting is the reason the father and son are traversing the road alone, struggling for survival, McCarthy’s depiction of the leaden sky and the sunless ashy world to which these two are helplessly tethered is both subtle and highly developed. McCarthy does not beat us over the head with descriptions of the surroundings, yet this is the bulk of the book. His true genius lies in the way he ties it to the action, to the emotions, to the memories, and to the dreams of the main characters. Perhaps McCarthy’s most successful (dare I say, unprecedented?) contrivance is his alluding to, but never explicitly stating, the reasons or the nature of the Apocalyptic event that is the impetus for the characters’ journey. In a way, this increases the suspense, as the reader struggles to understand why certain things have happened or continue to happen.
The bond between the father and the son (referred to as the Man and the Boy) is beautiful, tender, and realistic. McCarthy states early on that “each [is] the other one’s world entire.” It is this premise that shapes their relationship and much of the action in the book. The Boy is a boy in many ways, fearing the world, not wanting to hurt anyone, hoping for a brighter future; while the Man is a man in many ways, fighting for the life of himself and his progeny no matter the cost; differences that are the source of their conversation, disagreements, and shared respect for one another. Though the two are set in an unlikely, otherworldly setting, the relationship is believable and (not to sound maudlin) heart-touching.
This book continues to haunt me with its realistic depiction of death, hunger, fear, the unknowable future, and most of all love. A must read for all.
As a side note (realizing you know my love of audiobooks): I have to say that Stechschulte does a truly amazing job. He should absolutely win a Grammy for this one.
Also, check out The Millions review of the movie here.