Chloe's Reviews > The Crossing

The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, open_range, i_am_in_love

I'll admit it freely- I was unprepared for Cormac McCarthy. Sure, I've heard all the reviews: that he's bleak, despairing, has a dark and twisted worldview, offers little hope for the future, et cetera ad nauseum. It's one thing to hear about this and to know that cracking a Cormac McCarthy book is not going to be an exercise in gumdrops and rainbows, it's a whole other thing to actually open a book and expose yourself to over 400 pages of brutally hard-living and events that shake your faith in humankind even as you marvel at the tenacity of the human spirit.

The second in McCarthy's Border Trilogy, you know within the opening pages that this is a far different beast of a book than the award-winning All The Pretty Horses. The protagonists are similar, both teen boys looking for adventure and meaning on the other side of the thin imaginary line that divides American soil from Mexican. Yet where John Grady Cole descended into Mexico to care for horses and search out love, The Crossing's Billy Parham is on a quest that makes Sisyphus' efforts look like a lark. After trapping a pregnant wolf that has been preying on his family's cattle, Billy finds he can't bring himself to kill her and instead sets forth to the mountains of Mexico to release her back into the wild.

Of course nothing goes as it should and by the time Billy meanders back across the border to the ruins of his life he is hardly the immature youth who first set out on the long road through unfriendly lands. Through a series of events that are better left unwritten here, Billy finds himself drawn to Mexico again and again as the years go by, each journey removing more and more of his ties to the world and rendering him a living ghost haunted by the choices he's made and the vicissitudes of fate that have left him bereft.

Much has been made of the brutality and violence in McCarthy's works and I would be remiss if I didn't mention something about them. Don't get me wrong, this book is violent. There are descriptions of extreme brutality that makes you wonder as to the mental stability of the author- a particularly gruesome description of a man's eyes being sucked from his skull by a perverse German still haunt me. It's not only human-on-human violence within these pages, though. Some of the most inexplicable and haunting acts are performed on animals- the wolf, a dog, Billy's horse- which does far more to bring home the nature of the harsh world that Billy exists in.

The interesting thing, for me, is that most of the violence happens off-stage and is made known to the reader only through the effects it has on his characters. You don't get the action, but the reaction. It was this remove from the actual violence that made it seem that much more hard-hitting. Even the violence that occurs on-stage is briefly described in favor of longer passages dealing with the characters recovery from these events. It is this, the focus on the consequences of violence rather than the violence itself, that sticks with the reader long after the last page has been turned.

McCarthy is a man who has ruminated at great lengths on the darker nature of humanity and it is laid out fantastically herein. Questions of faith in a god that lets such atrocities as described above occur, moments of extreme kindness and charity by the most dispossessed inhabitants of the Sonoran desert, the sheer random nature of some of the events- McCarthy has crafted a fable that cuts right to the heart of humanity and leaves you questioning whether original sin may actually be an affliction which we suffer. At the very least, he's earned a dedicated fan and I can not wait to read the concluding book of the trilogy.
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Reading Progress

January 10, 2011 – Started Reading
January 10, 2011 – Shelved
January 10, 2011 – Shelved as: fiction
January 10, 2011 – Shelved as: open_range
January 19, 2011 –
page 231
"What the crap, C-Mac?!? Low blow to slit a dog's throat like that. Violence against humans? Acceptable. Violence against animals? Not so much."
January 28, 2011 – Finished Reading
January 30, 2011 – Shelved as: i_am_in_love

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