Monday, April 27, 2009

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and son push a shopping cart along a broken concrete highway. The sky and landscape are gray and desolate. Nuclear holocaust? We can assume but are never told. Father remembers what it was like before. The son has known only this world of ash and danger and survival. What happened to the father's wife and son's mother? We think we know but even that is left to the imagination.

As father and son head for the coast - we don't know why - they carry scavenged food, anything they can find for warmth, and a handgun. The rule is there must always be two bullets left. We find out why when they almost fall into a trap at what seems to be a deserted farmhouse.

Bleak. Despairing. Sparse. And yet The Road is a story of love and faith.

This is a road and journey I highly recommend.

I read The Road before Oprah (along with the people who made the movie No Country for Old Men) took Cormac McCarthy mainstream. But I must confess in my years of reading and spending time in the book publishing industry, I somehow missed McCarthy as a brutal, unrelenting force in American fiction. I did go back and read a number of his other works, including Blood Meridian - I agree that it is his true classic (the portrait he draws of the Devil in human flesh in the last scene is as terrifying as anything you read from Dante) but I'll save that for another post.

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