Daniel Solera's Reviews > The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
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's review
Dec 16, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, pulitzer-prize

Cormac McCarthy is known for revealing man's primitive tendencies when freed, willingly or otherwise, from social constructs, notably in works like Blood Meridian and No Country For Old Men. It was with an awareness for this type of macabre brutality that I ventured into his widely lauded novel, The Road.

I was pleasantly surprised by this novel, ironically because it did not satisfy my expectations given my knowledge of McCarthy's works. The novel's post-apocalyptic setting notwithstanding, it is not as dark as one might imagine. The plot focuses primarily on the journey of an unnamed man and his son through a barren, unpopulated wasteland and their struggle to survive and evade "the bad guys". Though this world easily lends itself to grisly scenes of destruction and decay, the main focus is on the relationship between the two characters and how the crumbling world around them affects it.

McCarthy's style is very interesting to note here. As they walk on the road, he describes everything with a very sparse, desolate and fragmented style, reflecting the world through which they travel. The dialogue in particular is reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway in that only the actual spoken lines are given to us, leaving gestures and facial expressions to our own imagination. However, once they enter a deserted house or walk through an abandoned city, his descriptions come to life, as if to try and hold on to the last remnants of humanity that still exist.

Its depressing world aside, The Road was surprisingly uplifting. Once readers accept the slim likelihood of the world being just a bad dream, the main focus becomes the bond between father and son and the way they interact with each other. What's additionally remarkable is how familiar the bond between them is, given the extreme environment they experience. The way they talk and cope with each other is so fundamentally human that their relationship alone breathes life into the bleak, gray world they shoulder.

Though I don't expect this book to brighten up anyone's day, I was genuinely moved by it and in a good way. Here's to hoping the movie doesn't disappoint.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by DB (new) - rated it 4 stars

DB Nice review. The writing in The Road is quite spare and I see where you are going with the Hemingway comparison. His other notable works, specifically Blood Meridian and Suttree, have a much more baroque style than The Road. Of course there is a reason McCarthy does this as it fits the motifs and subject matter better than employing the more ornate and dense style of his other masterworks. While in my opinion it doesnt quite match up with those aforementioned books, it is still a very impressive meditation on society and familial relationships. I think they were very faithful to the text in the movie adaptation of No Country For Old Men, but unfortunately Ive heard that they have taken some *ahem* liberties with the filming of The Road.

Daniel Solera Thanks for the comment DB. I am more motivated to pick up some of his other works after finishing The Road, mostly because it has confirmed that McCarthy is a stylistic chameleon. Though I liked his deceptively simple approach in this one, I want to explore his more ornate, as you put it, stylistic touch.

I say deceptively simple because one can argue that there is a less-is-more effect happening with this stripped-down approach. Even something as simple as the word "Okay", which seems to end 90% of all conversations between the man and boy, takes on a depth that would not exist in a more meaty narrative. We all know nothing is "okay" in this world, but it keeps getting repeated, as if to convince readers (and themselves) that there is still something alright in the world.

Thanks again for the comment.

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