Happy Friday, darlings! It's time for Blessed Bookworm's second ever book review. I finished Cormac McCarthy's The Road this week and thought it was really interesting. I hope you enjoy the review!
Title: The Road
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Year Published: 2006
Get it here: Amazon
A father and son are migrating south in a post-apocalyptic world, simply trying to endure the elements and stay alive. In a world that is barely populated, where all flora and fauna have been wiped out and nothing exists except what can be scavenged from abandoned structures and other groups of possibly dangerous survivors, this small family claws ever towards survival. Their relationship and their pilgrimage are the sum total of the novel.
First, let me just go ahead and get the personal part of this out of the way. I lost my Dad at the end of last September. I live thousands of miles from my family but was able to get home in time for the last couple days and held his hand for the last night of his life and as he left this world. This book ravaged my still raw wounds from that loss. Even as the story came to a close, The Road joined the ranks of only three other novels to bring tears to my eyes as I sat crying and reliving my father's death - an experience that is all too fresh as it is - missing him in an entirely new context. And yet, in spite of all that, this is still one of the most brilliant novels I've ever read. It leaves me so proud that we chose to name our second son after this amazing author.
Now, to really get into reviewing the book. The Road is a treasure in literature. I could write for days on the layers and symbolism within this text. The dialogue, in true McCarthy fashion, is sparse and genuine, muscular and yet tender. The man and his son are honest with each other and have the exact conversations I could imagine would come up with my own sons in a post-apocalyptic situation. Their relationship is a thing of beauty that few other novels have rivaled.
In our house we are faithful viewers of The Walking Dead (another post-apocalyptic scenario, but this one has zombies). My husband and I have spent an embarrassingly large number of hours debating the minutia of the show or how we would respond in any number of hypothetical situations. With that being said, I fell easily into the world in which The Road exists. It is an almost colorless place and terrifying without even the slightest effort. I had put off this book for years but now, reading it as a parent, the concept of sheltering my small and infant sons through such an endlessly stressful and dangerous world was deeply unnerving.
McCarthy brings to light all of the possible alternative story lines that face our two heroes - "the good guys." Cannibalism, rape, ... without becoming gratuitously graphic he paints the pictures in a haunting manner that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Even when nothing is happening! But no matter what is happening, there is always hope. There is always this unfailing, illogical push to survive by the father. When the son is depressed and longs to give up and die, the father pushes them forward if with nothing other than sheer faith. Faith in survival and doing whatever it takes to accomplish the God-given mission of every parent: keeping your child alive.
The phrase "carrying the fire" gets repeat mentions until the final pages of the book. Another homage to the hope that the two carry with them in the face of such desolation. The fire, the flame of faith - of humanity - is what separates them from "the bad guys." They don't eat people, because they carry the fire. They don't steal, they carry the fire. They carry on in hope of somehow making it through to the other side of whatever the valley of life is.
The final ten pages of the book are some of the most passionately beautiful passages I've ever read. In McCarthy's stoic style, we reach the final words of the story with a recognition of our humanity, our faith, and the love we have for those closest to us. It will leave you grateful for your life. The ease of acquiring food and water, staying warm and dry, - the privilege of being safe within the walls of your home. It made me miss my Dad profoundly (even more so knowing how much he would have loved this story of fatherhood and love) and want to hold my sons as tightly as they'll allow. Perhaps a little tighter still.
"You have my whole heart. You always did."