Friday, November 12, 2010

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road

by Cormac McCarthy
published 2006
completed October 2010

I've been wanting to read this book for a while.  I've seen it everywhere.  I finally found it at my teeny tiny library.  I happened to be there when someone returned it.  I gladly snapped it up and took it home.  As a bit of background, as a reader, I like to know as little as possible about a book before I read it.  I don't read the book jackets or summaries on Amazon.  I read blog posts on books, but always skip the summaries if it is a book that I know I want to read.  I like to be surprised.  And surprised I was when I started reading The Road.  I was already in bed and had just finished another book.  I picked The Road up with the intention of only reading for a few minutes.  I think I got through the first page before turning to my husband and saying, "This book is not about what I expected."  I know it's strange, but I love being caught off-guard like that.

The Road is about a post-apocalyptic world.  It's been many years since a disaster destroyed the earth and the narrator and his son are traveling south on the road during the winter.  Not much actually happens during the book, but there is a built-in suspense based on the fear of what could happen.  Will they find food?  Will they run into others?  Will they find shelter from the snow?

I have mixed feelings about this book.  It was a compelling read, but I don't know how satisfied I felt at the end. I'm sure there are some that say that the ending is bittersweet, but I see it as utterly hopeless.  They are still facing the same challenges as at the beginning.

Throughout the book there are no quotation marks.  I understand that this is a stylistic choice by the author, but that combined with two unnamed male main characters (and many other minor male characters), resulted in confusion.  You get "he said..." and "he said..." for an entire page and it starts to get confusing as to which "he" the author is referring.  I found myself breaking the flow of my reading to go back and re-read passages because I couldn't tell who was doing or saying what.

Part of my hesitation with recommending this book is the content.  There are deeply disturbing things happening in this book.  At one particularly disturbing passage about two-thirds through the book, I had to literally put the book down and walk away from it for a while.  The Road portrays a disconcerting view of human nature.  I'm more optimistic in my own views of humanity so it didn't seem as realistic.

The Road won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007.  I can understand how people are moved by this book.  I was more disturbed by it than anything.  It's not one of my favorites, but I don't regret reading it.  I don't think it is for everyone because of the disturbing subject matter, but it is a worthwhile read.


  1. I'm just like you, with preferring to come to a book knowing absolutely nothing about it. That way it's not so easy to be disappointed--if I know too much about a book, my expectations may be too high, or just too different from what the book actually is.

    I've been meaning to read this one too, although I did already know that it's post-apocalyptic and harsh.

  2. It is a dark and disturbing book, isn't it? I always tell people "don't read it if you are feeling low ... you'll just feel lower."

    It took me a while to shake it off after reading it.

  3. Kathy--My expectations play a huge part in whether I enjoy a book. Books that I know too much about, generally end up disappointed me. So weird. The Road is an interesting read but make sure you're at a point in your life where you don't mind being brought down into a bit of a dark place.

    Jenners--I agree. Very dark and disturbing. I think the timing of when you read this is everything. It sure brings you down and I agree that could be bad if you are already feeling low. Did you like it?

  4. I also like to know as little as possible about a book's plot before going in - it's just more fun that way!

    The ending of The Road really does divide opinions! Personally I was among those who read it a bit more positively, because even though the world is still a mess and humankind's hope of survival is next to null, the ending does raise the possibility that people will be kind to one another amidst all that chaos. I found hope in that, even though practically speaking everyone is still pretty much doomed.

  5. this book utterly haunted me. Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite authors--his writing style is exactly how it is in this book, which takes some time to get used to! It's almost infuriating to figure out who said what, but I think that's part of the point--sometimes it doesn't matter.

    The ending of this one left me hollow as well. And there are some scenes that STILL could give me nightmares!

    Hope the next one is a bit more uplifting for you!

  6. Nymeth--I do agree that the ending is somewhat hopeful of humanity, but I guess just not hopeful as far as their ultimate situation.

    Trish--Haunting is a good word to describe it. It was tough reading about some of the things that humans would do. So sickening. I'm sure I'll give McCarthy another try. Which other would you recommend? I think I'm avoiding No Country for Old Men. I don't think I could handle the gore.

  7. Kristi--it's a tough question because I wouldn't consider his books to be among my favorites--but I love his writing. Such a weird thing...

    No Country is very violent--and while I've heard great things about Blood Meridian and want to read it one day, I've heard it's even more violent. :(

    All the Pretty Horses is good--I prefered The Crossing but everyone in my grad class hated it because it was so bleak (both part of a triology--haven't read the third). :( I'm afraid I'm not being much help!! LOL!