Let me start this off by admitting I went into this book as a skeptic. A nonbeliever of Cormac McCarthy’s literary prowess. Never mind his book-movie deals, video games, and prizes, perhaps his style just wasn’t for me, I thought, and it was about time I begin my life on the outskirts of society.
The first book I picked up of his was multi-award winning Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West. Course. Violent. The odd decapitation and writhing in the entrails of the enemy. Yea… So, before committing to a kindle sample of The Road I knew two things about Cormac McCarthy:
- Amazon book suggestion seriously wanted him in my life.
- I had only made it a third of the way through the other book of his I read and it was a horrid struggle.
Blood Meridian judges me from my bookshelf, story half told, gathering dust between a Cajun style cookbook and a No Fear Shakespeare book. The shame.
A polar opposite, The Road, was a pleasant surprise for me. Riddled with themes of dystopia and a touch of horror, the plot surrounds two characters simply called ‘the man’ and ‘the boy’ as they make their way through a post-apocalyptic world covered in a thick toxic ash. The man remembers life before this time but his son is too young to remember the former world which often draws a divide between the pair. In this new reality no one can be trusted, life is hellish, cannibalism is commonplace, and the few who remain trek an endless road to what they hope is salvation. The plot focuses primarily on the relationship and dynamic between father and son, with the man trying to shield the boy from a world of chaos only to realize not every bloated corpse or ‘bad guy’ they encounter on the road to nowhere can be avoided. And at this point, why shield the child from what is essentially his life?
As exciting as the majority of the book is I felt an occasional lull between events, probably because of some repetitive dialogue, no apostrophes, and no identification of who is speaking.
So when are you going to talk to me again?
Im talking now.
Are you sure?
Who is speaking?! The son. No, the man? Why would you do this?
I rely on “…. said” more than I realized, it’s a crutch. Not being told exactly who is speaking takes some getting used to, but after the initial urge to add punctuation where needed subsides the story soon picks up into another character defining moment for the boy or a critical event in the relationship.
To kill or not to kill scenarios are a plenty and defeated moments where they just stop and ask; what are we carrying on for? Why?
Well thought out and beautiful metaphors propel The Road into my successful random reads and proves second time’s the charm in this case. McCarthy utilizes the sometimes double-edged sword of flashbacks to perfection, revealing where the seldom mentioned mother stands in the darkness of this new place and an additional layer of empathy towards the characters. Too. Damn. Good. To be honest, initially I found myself siding with the dad, wishing his naive son would keep quiet and appreciate all that was being done for him. But soon I jumped ship and took on the child’s perspective. Simply a scared young boy looking for the good in a derelict wasteland he calls home, hoping he can find one with intentions as pure as his.
All the emotions!
Can I call you Cormac?
Please forgive me, I was a fool.
A damn fool.