Cormac McCarthy’s The Road follows an unnamed man and his son as they trek through a post-apocalyptic America that is reduced to smouldering ash with only a handful of survivors left alive. As they trek down the eponymous road that leads them out towards the coastline, they must continually search for food to eat and fend for themselves against other hostile survivors.
The man still does his best to act as a moral beacon for his son. Of course, as their situation becomes increasingly desperate, the line begins to blur between what they have to do to survive and the type of behaviour his son believes seperates them from the ‘bad guys’. This tale is effectively portrayed with McCarthy’s trademark economical and pithy prose which paints the picture of a harsh and wretched landscape.
The Road reminded me a lot of the film The Bicycle Thief because of its focus on the relationship between father and son. The story is unrelentingly bleak with only brief respites of happiness. Despite all the horrible things they come across, it all builds to an inevitable climax where the man is worn down to a point where he can no longer be the moral compass that he strives to be for his son. When that moment comes, although the act is comparatively mild compared to a lot of the harsher moments in the book, it is heartbreaking.
Its a tried and true formula (as is the post-apocalyptic wasteland setting for that matter) but its told very vividly and worked for me. Although the bulk of the story can be rather repetetive and nihilistic (some cannibalism here, bit of infanticide there) it all comes together with a very strong final act.
Get the book now before they start selling it with Aragorn on the cover.
As a side note, the e-book version of The Road doesn’t have the cover on it. What gives? It just goes straight to the first page without even having any of the publication notes. I felt like I downloaded a bootleg copy :/