Thursday, January 01, 2009

Book Review: The Road

The Road
By Cormac McCarthy

I've wanted to read this for a while, mostly on the recommendation of a trusted book-friend. She had read All the Pretty Horses and found it unforgettable. When I found out this would be a movie with one of my fave actors, Viggo Mortensen, I thought I'd read it now in preparation for maybe going to see the film.

The book is written as a series of short phrases and sentences that give me the impression of an observer trying to process what his eyes are telling him. It is a difficult job and small bites are the best the mind can do. I really liked McCarthy's use of language. He loves words. I can tell because I had to get out my dictionary and I enjoy it when an author challenges me like that.

It takes place in a terrible, burned America where only a few people have survived a destructive event that remains largely mysterious except for the horrific clarity of the aftereffects. The images are haunting and the story is powerful. The plot centers around a father and his son trudging through the ruined land to find the coast where maybe it is warmer, or there is more food, or life will just be better. Theirs is a loving bond, which truly makes the depravity in which they exist bearable. If not for their relationship, I'm not sure I could have stood the pain. Before you dismiss it as depressing, though, let me say that it is not. It is painful, but it is not without humanity, hope and compassion. In fact, I would say that those are the central themes. So, read it with your eyes wide open, but be prepared to shut them in horror occasionally when McCarthy puts the ugliness right out there, too graphic to ignore. The ugliness served to frame the faint beauty perfectly, though, and I'll be thinking about this one for a long time.


  1. You know I really loved this one

  2. That review has me feeling so differently than my initial impressions from the very little I've heard about this book-- I think you may have convinced me...

    (and btw-- this piece was beautifully written. You talk about others' use of language-- you have quite a knack yourself, missy!) :)

  3. I am for sure going to have to read this.

  4. Beautifully written review. You (and Corinne) almost convince me to read it, but I'm a wimp when it comes to graphic images that will haunt me for years (or even days). I did read All the Pretty Horses and found it beautiful and haunting, but not in a way that I mind.


Thank you for sharing your insights!