Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

The Road

Posted by nliakos on February 25, 2012

by Cormac McCarthy (Vintage Books, 2006, originally published by Knopf, 2006)

This was a thoroughly depressing book. A father and son trudge through a destroyed America. It is not clear what has burned the country, killed all the plant life and wildlife and most of the humans, yet left a few humans alive; but they must keep going if they are to survive the winter and avoid the marauding gangs who will kill and consume them if they catch them. It’s a kind of survival story (like Hatchet or My Side of the Mountain), but much grimmer. There is no clean place to return to; everything that was before, is gone now. Corpses litter the landscape and they find little to eat, wear, or use because everything has been ransacked before by others. Apparently the destruction, whatever it was, happened years ago.

The redeeming part of the story is the love and trust between the father and son. They are everything to one another. I guessed the boy to be between seven and ten, but he has been aged by the horrors he has seen and experienced on the road. He remembers nothing else. I kept hoping for something good to come out of it, although I couldn’t see how that would be possible.

The grammar is very simple, and most of the sentences are short. Most of the vocabulary is common as well, but then there will be a sentence like “He rose and stood tottering in that cold autistic dark with his arms outheld for balance while the vestibular calculations in his skull cranked out their reckonings” (p 15).  There are a lot of sentence fragments, and for some reason contractions are written without apostrophes (e.g., didnt) and dialogue without quotation marks (that’s common these days). An English language learner who could ignore these things would understand the story at least as well as I did, but why you would want to read it is another question. It won a Pulitzer Prize and was made into a movie, and I kept reading until the end, but I guess I prefer my fiction to more more uplifting than this was.

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