A man and a boy make their way along a road through a destroyed and desolate country. Where no one they meet can be considered a friend. There is no food other than what they can scavenge from already ransacked buildings.
I don’t mind bleak. Where I do draw the line is bleak and impersonal. I can completely understand why people love The Road, it’s just I don’t think I like Cormac McCarthy’s writing much. It’s quite stylistic and I’m sure everything he does that I didn’t like is done for a reason, but overall it wasn’t my cup of tea.
It seems the worst of humanity has prevailed in this future. On a scale of hopeless, end of the world scenarios, The Road is on the opposite end to On the Beach. In both books the world is doomed, but how people react is a world apart. People are only looking out for themselves.
I’m not heartless; I did feel sad for the boy. He doesn’t even get the dignity of a name. The boy acts as man’s moral conscience, he wants to look for the best in people. But the man spends his time thinking if he will have to kill the boy to save him from a fate worse than death. What point do you just give up?
He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable.
There’s not much inner dialogue, you just have to rely on brief conversations, with the speech unmarked. It’s easy to lose track of who is speaking. I didn’t see the point of the flashbacks as they were so brief and I didn’t feel they really gave any context. I did want to know more about the before, but I get that it wasn’t the point of this book, and therefore why bother with the little bit we get?
The road is symbolic because there’s really not a whole load of logic in them being on it when they are so keen on not meeting other people. They are heading to the sea, but without any purpose. The man’s only purpose is to stay alive to keep his son safe, to be there when what needs to be done is done.
Considering the brevity of some of their encounters, and the lack of character detail, whole pages are devoted to explaining some of the man’s tasks; opening stuck jar lids, carving bullets out of wood, tying down tarpaulin.
I’ve seen other books described as “The Road, with hope” so many times, I was quite surprised at the ending. I think it is hopeful in a way, and so much more positive than what I thought was going to happen.
I guess I’m glad I read it, but it’s not going to be going on my recommendations list.
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