The Road The Road discussion


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If you read this, do you have kids?

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Rebecca I was wondering if being a parent affected the way people felt about this book. I felt very strongly reading this book. I have a young son and periodically while reading this book I'd just give him a big hug. I sobbed at the end, probably the most I've cried while reading any book. So, I'm interested to know if the people who didn't like this book, don't have kids, so maybe they can't relate in the way a parent can. What are your thoughts?


Kecia I do not have children and I loved the book. I do not think one can only relate to this story if one has children. In fact, I find that idea rather troublesome.


Diana I loved this book and I understand what you mean - I too would periodically give my daughter a big hug while reading the book. It made me think about how desperate I would be if I was left alone with her and it was purely up to me to keep her safe in a very dangerous world. But I also think that if you do not have children its a very interesting read - to see Cormac McCarthy's view of humanity when its tested to its limits - both good and bad. And I do not think the author has had children himself - so that may be interesting to you.


Betty O One of the very reasons I do not have children (and there are several reasons) is that I do not have a lot of hope for this world. At the same time, it pains me to think of children having to grow up in this world. I found The Road very moving and feel that not having children does not prevent me from feeling the pain of trying to keep hope alive and try to survive in the world portrayed in The Road. Loved this book!


Rebecca Diana - that is interesting that the author does not have children. A comment someone made in their review prompted me to ask the parenting question. I don't remember who, but someone wrote that the man's son was irritating. That comment sort of shocked me, so I started thinking about how this book really affected me and I know a big reason was thinking of me in the man's situation taking care of my son. I am glad that others with and without children related to this book.


Kecia Cormac McCarthy does have children. I think his interview with Oprah is still available her website and is well worth the time to watch. He talks about the genesis of this story coming from an experience with his son.


Diana I did see some of the Oprah interview, it was really good. I thought I had read in a biography that he did not have children but you are right. He does have 2 sons - one with each of his first 2 wives. I dont think he has a child with his third wife - which might be what I read. Sorry - my mistake.


Diana I saw that review too (that someone wrote that the man's son was irritating). I was really surprised by that comment. Considering there are really only two characters: the man and the son.


Katie I just finished this book. I do not have children. I couldnt put this book down. I didnt cry at the end but today (it often takes me a day or two to really let a great book sink in) I started thinking about it again, especially how it ended and I almost started to cry. That image of the boy asking the stranger if he could say goodbye one last time, then going back to the cave and sobbing next to his fathers body wrapped in a blanket was very powerful.


Annette Perhaps I can bridge the reader as with-child/without child gap. I was 6 months pregnant while reading this. You can imagine how disturbed I was when I came to the part where they were roasting a certain something on a spit. I thought for days about what I would do if placed in a similar situation with my unborn daughter. Would I want her to even enter the world? Would I (or could I) continue to go on knowing that my child could be raped, enslaved or even eaten? This book made me depressed for weeks. I had nightmares about it.

Yet I do not think one needs to be a parent to really understand the depths of despair elucidated in The Road. I would say the only requirement to fully feel the gist of the book is that the reader truly love someone and be capable of imagining that someone in the situations the Father and Son were in.

As I mention in my own review of The Road, I think this latest work is the end (or beginning?) of McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Man as survivor and brute...man as creator and destroyer of nature and other men. It's a cycle...and that is the MOST disturbing thing about The Road and Blood Meridian. The cycle of destruction is never-ending in McCarthy's worlds. And those who survive destruction are very rarely "good" people.


message 11: by Allycks (last edited Dec 02, 2007 12:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Allycks Excellent topic. I have two very young children and I was constantly going to look at them sleeping peacefully during the reading, taking breaks from the tension, and yeah, putting myself in the man's shoes. I read the whole thing in one night. Wondering if others were as moved as I was by the story. The book has been criticized as being overwritten, and at times it is, but there is no other novel written in my lifetime that packs the wallop of 'The Road.' I finished it several days ago, but even now I'm devastated emotionally. Just trying to explain this book to my friends brings me to the verge of tears. The father-son relationship is so finely rendered that sometimes McCarthy's writing seemed like a precise expression of my own feelings towards my own child. The warming of the child's feet against your stomach, just one example that comes to mind, and in general the heightened awareness that arises when danger is about (for me, danger is teenagers on scooters, for the man it's people with human flesh stuck in their teeth.) And the Prometheus metaphor of 'carrying the fire' is a perfect expression of what any parent feels toward their children, with or without the end of the world.


message 12: by Scannon (new)

Scannon "That image of the boy asking the stranger if he could say goodbye one last time, then going back to the cave and sobbing next to his fathers body wrapped in a blanket was very powerful."

Thanks a lot Katie. : (


message 13: by Nick (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nick I have children. I still hated the book. The setting is inconsistent. The writing is brilliant, but the book still sucks. For why, feel free to read my review.

"Listen girly, if we get stuck in a post-apocalyptic world I promise to not wander away from food and I will spare and *seek out* any playmates for you we find along the way. I will not 'carry the fire' into a cold grave. Nor will I teach you to build a society by ignoring dying men. Got that?" - Me to my children.


message 14: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary I have children and the feelings of helplessness brought on by McCarthy's choice of words were intense at times. I could not put this down either. I loved every word. In my opinion the book did not suck. This is my favorite book of 2006. I didn't even need a bookmark.


message 15: by Nick (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nick In a really bad way this was emo-horror. The world was inconsistant. Think about it for a sec:
1.) The father carry's fire but ignores building civilization. HE ABANDONS CHILDREN.
2.) There are apples in open fields with rain and fungus
3.) Cannibalism for at least four years. Cannibalism is a calorie cliff.
4.) No fish? Really? We have fungus and there's no fish? Come oooooooon.
5.) For some reason people are energetic enough for sex but have become cannibals. Not just any sex mind you! Slave sex!
6.) How come the houses in burnt woods aren't burnt?

The book is an emotional hit piece. That it was selected as an Oprah book is not surprising. It is aimed at wrenching emotions with no logical setting.


Cheryl S. I have kids and grandkids and when I was in highschool we thought either Kruschev or Castro would drop the big one on us. Every generation goes through the fear of something. Enjoy every day with your young son. He'll like any extra hugs he gets--at least for a few more years. Books like this help us to understand any time we spend with the ones we love is the most important time we get.


Minnie While we are nit-picking, How come there is still oxygen if all the trees are dead? Aside from that ,I have reread the book and consider it the best book of 2007. As for the children issue, I have children and I did not really consider that being a parent made the book more special to me. My question is, what keeps you going if there is no past and no future? The mother took a decision and so did the father. What would I do? I also rethought some other post-apocalyptic books and found them much more optimistic about human nature. even Stephen King in The Stand has some hope. Then there's that movie, Children of Men, were the end of the world is brought about by infertility. The boy drives the man in a world without hope, a world without children is hopeless, so then?


Books Ring Mah Bell I finished this last week... I read it and wept in places. I was angry with the mother for "leaving", I'd do anything and endure the depths of hell to protect my child. Had I read this before having my son, I would have been moved, but not to this extent.




message 19: by James (last edited Jan 07, 2008 09:54AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

James D. I have a young daughter and a year and a half old son. This book really put an emphasis on how important the impression I have on the sculpture of their lives and belief systems really is. There was a night or two that I found myself lying next to my daughter in bed or rocking my son to sleep that much longer because of the attachment issues that i consider a side effect of emotion in the story. I enjoy reading fiction for the sake of reading fiction. If I want a scientific story on what's possible , or not, I'll pick up a journal.


message 20: by Katie (last edited Jan 07, 2008 11:22AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katie I loved the book and don't have children. I think there had to be a child involved in this storyline because otherwise it would be too easy to just check out and commit suicide (I wondered throughout the book what I would do in such a situation... easy to say you'd kill yourself, but it's probably not so easy when push comes to shove). Anyway, I think having children is not a prerequisite for understanding what this man was going through.


Cliff I agree with Becky. I have a young son and The Road reminded me of the relationship we have. The bond a parent and child is strong and the fact that the father kept trudging along for the sake of his son is sad, but true.


message 22: by Dick (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dick I agree that the book is especially moving from a parent's point of view. I think this is the only time McCarthy gives the reader an upbeat, concrete ending.


message 23: by Sandy (new) - rated it 1 star

Sandy I had a strong negative reaction to this book, which I mainly attributed to my being a parent - a new parent - at the time I was reading it, my son was only 2 months old. I found it way too bleak for my state of mind at that time; it just felt too devastating to contemplate the world being like that, even if there were some okay people in it (though no one ever knew if anyone else was okay, since there was no trust until the people at the end).


message 24: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Spot on! You are so right Allycks. I felt exactly the same.


Lauralee I have a 7 year old son, but I've also buried a parental figure. Watching the child go through that was amazing. JFK, Jr., said you only become an adult when your parents are dead. To see this boy grow up in this world was scary. Are we giving our kids the skills they will need to survive in the modern world? Physically and Psychologically?


Lauralee Carson has a young son. A late in life son by his latest wife. It was watching him that spawned the idea for the book.


message 27: by Tressa (new)

Tressa My young son was the reason I couldn't get past the first two chapters of this book. I want to read it, but I just can't right now.


message 28: by Desi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Desi I thought of Children of Men, too, and the hopelessness of a world where there can be no children. Nothing to add to that, just a nod of thinking alike.


Minnie Hi Patrick
I'm interested, what decisions could he have taken to avoid what happened to him? This is however speculation and no one would be able to fault you for your suggestions, however what decisions did he take that were bad?


message 30: by Nick (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nick I've posted about this before, and am not Patrick, but I'll answer anyway:
1.) Moving when there is food. This is a _terrible_ survival technique.
2.) Moving without a plan for the next move.
3.) Abandoning potential allies without evaluating their status as a threat. This is painfully evident with the dog. A _dog_ where was it getting food? Why can't it be food?


message 31: by Jess (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jess I don't have children but I can certainly empathize with the characters and the situation. I am sure there are parents out there that didn't like the book.


message 32: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John It's pretty easy to judge the father's decisions from the comfort of the couch with a laptop keeping your goodies warm.

But after facing a holocaust, some rational thinking would probably go out the window in favor of a healthy dose of nervous edgy paranoia.

In such a mindset, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.

edit: For the record, I am a parent. And that is one question that the book asks of us that non-parents might not think of in the same way: What would you do to save your child? What price would you be willing to pay?


Leslie I just found the book incredibly depressing.


message 34: by John (last edited Oct 09, 2008 11:17AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

John First of all, I grew up in Alaska, too, and that explains a lot about why you disliked the father's character. Alaskans as I know them generally embrace the frontier mentality of being able to tame the wilderness to survive, and of the rugged, self-sufficient individual, so I can understand why that mindset (if I'm correct in judging your take) makes him an irritating moron.

If you're living off the land, killing your own game with handmade weapons, growing your own food, making your own clothes and surviving the winter outdoors, then I admit "The Road" isn't going to tell as much of a story to you.

But if you wear manufactured clothes and hiking boots, shoot with a gun and bullets, live in a house, drive a car/snowmachine/ATV, and eat anything but meat in the winter, the book asks you to confront the despair that might grip you if all of those things were taken away.

The details of survival are not necessarily the point. I suspect The Zombie Survival Guide (which is excellent, by the way) is probably more to your liking. The point of the book is the emptiness and horror that the father must overcome once the holocaust has taken nearly everything dear to him away. What is left?

It's fun to talk about survival details, though, so to address your specific objections to his actions:

What difference would it have made if they stayed anyway? Would it really have enhanced the book if they'd stayed for 6 months instead of 6 days? Would their fate have been any different? And how would you go about hiding something as conspicuous as an unburied door in the ground once the ground has been dug up?

And he went out to the boat because he was hungry and desperate. There are enough scenes of the man and his soon foraging through empty houses that it seems reasonable to assume that they've been universally looted, their contents have been used, and all the looters have died despite their spoils. When there is nothing left, risking injury is worth not starving to death. The only places that haven't been looted are the places that are hard to reach, like the boat.

Regardless of the details, it seems that McCarthy wasn't able to make the father's character believable to you, and that the atmosphere he created wasn't enough to suspend your belief in what we would sanely call "common sense." I don't think he has any common sense, no. I question whether common sense is even possible in the world McCarthy created here.

One final question: if only the fit survive and that's your criteria for sympathy/empathy, does that mean it would have liked his character better if he'd been a cannibal? Would it have been a better book?


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

I did read it and have 2 children; little boy, then 3, and a little girl, then 1. I'll admit it, I sobbed when I finished the book. It's the first time that anything has moved me that much. It amuses me when people read something only to pick it apart, or take special note of the inconsistencies. It must be very difficult to enjoy reading. I don't try to figure anything out in a book, or a movie. I want it to unfold before me. I don't think anyone can really say what they would do with any degree of certainty. Truth is, no one can say what they would do, other than, whatever it would take to protect our children. I think the book did a good job of looking at what happens to a 'civilized' society when there are no checks and balances in place to govern everyday life.


Christina I do not have children but I am enjoying the book. I find the relationship of the father/ son meaningful and very moving!


Meredith I don't have kids. I choked up first at page 9.
The situation made me think of my husband and me and all the fears of dying alone, knowing that it's inevitable, dreading old age, etc. (The thought that kept me awake at night: if we die of old age, say 75, then it will be 2053--wtf is the world going to look at in 2053?!)

(*Spoiler*)

Because my father died when I was 11 and I was right there when it happened, I could sort of relate to the boy and the ending, and it didn't totally depress me-- because you move on, eventually.


message 38: by Jeff (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jeff I have one son, he was about one year old when I read this book. I don't that made me feel any different. I tried to place myself in the story with him but it wasn't working because of the age difference between my son and the boy in the book. If the man in the book had a one year old, it would have been a totally different story. Anyway, I interpreted this book as an adventure and didn't think it was all that sad. The ending was appropriate. The boy will truly love and appreciate his dad more and more as he grows.


Toshi Having a kid did have an effect on how I read the story and felt about it. It would have been a depressing book without that extra emotional connection, but that made it even more depressing. I think the author did a good job though of using genuine fear and creating believable situations. Normally I look at movies/stories that use children for their emotionally tense moments as cheap and lessened for doing something like that, but The Road was original and sincere enough that it didn't feel like the author was continually endangering the child for cheap dramatic spikes. He does a good job of making you wonder if you were in that situation how would you handle it. What would you tell your child, and what would you ask them to do if things got bad?


message 40: by Bex (last edited Jan 07, 2012 12:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bex i have two young boys, i think this has influenced the way i feel about this book in a very meaningful way, not only to the boy but to other child related situations through the book which sent chills down my spine. it gives you so much to think about, although filled with sadness there is a certain beauty about it and the way its written. it made me think about the small moments i have with my children and how lucky i am, as there are so many who suffer and struggle today, it made me very grateful for all the things i so often take for granted.


Bridget Rebecca wrote: "I was wondering if being a parent affected the way people felt about this book. I felt very strongly reading this book. I have a young son and periodically while reading this book I'd just give h..."

She isn't saying you can only relate to the story if you have children...She is asking what other parents may have thought about the book....I personally do have children {one with a disability & would always wonder how we would get him around when his legs got too tired} & it was hard to get through not only because I kept thinking of my children but because it was a hard, depressing read...

I had to put it down 3 times...it took me about a year to finish it. I think the only reason I did was because I didnt have anything else to read at the time.


message 42: by Andy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Andy Rix I do believe that being a parent as opposed to not being a parent makes a difference on how one reacts to the Road. In many of the interactions between the father and son in the book I saw myself and how I related with my son as he grew up. The fact that I had last my own son prior to me reading the book made the emotion I felt reading that much more powerful.


Kelsey I understand that parents may have a particularly strong connection to this novel and a very visceral experience with the father son relationship. However, I am an 18 year old girl and I think that I was extremely connected to that relationship. Although I would describe myself as extremely maternal, so that could be a factor. My point being...children or no children, the relationship between father and son in the novel is powerful to all readers and I cried like a baby when the boy had a fever and the man thought he was going to lose him, his anguish was chilling. And especially the moment when they were hiding after having discovered the hatch full of naked men and women waiting to die, and the man instructs the boy how to use the pistol, I could barely even read that scene it was so terrorizing.


message 44: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will IV I think it's particularly interesting that many parents seem to be affected in much the same manner as those without children while reading this book, at least, I felt very similar emotions reading this book as many parents here seem to be describing, and I don't have any children. It speaks volumes for the author.


message 45: by Chad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chad I think some of the earlier posts are missing the point picking apart apocalypse scenarios. This was meant to be a parable inspired by a trip west with the author's grandson that took him on an unexpected digression. My wife who has not read the book found me re-reading it, and she is aware of the storyline. She was almost mad at me for reading it, unable to understand why a father with a young son could read something like that. It is harsh and beautiful, and it reminds me to be thankful and enjoy the small moments. That is why ultimately, besides the craft, I will return to this book.


message 46: by Sid (new) - rated it 1 star

Sid I don't like this book, and I think the reason is because I don't have any children. I know that I would have appreciated the book more if I had read it after having a child.


message 47: by Tash (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tash Dahling I have three sons and I constantly thought of myself and my boys in the situations presented to the father and the son on the road.
What struck me the most, was not the fear or horror, but how as a parent we have to promise our children things we have no control over. The man promises the boy things will be ok, but he has no idea if that's true. The father also uses the boys love and respect for him to force the boy to follow him, to trust him. He doesn't do this to be awful, he does this because he is the parent, and he has to keep his boy alive. It's the heartwrenching choices of the parent that touched me the most.


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The Road (other topics)
The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead (other topics)