Sunday, December 25, 2011
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
A father finds a reason to live in a post apocalyptic landscape by protecting his young son
I thought I would hate this because I heard it was pretentious, but I was completely sucked in and ended up liking it quite a bit. The story was gripping and the prose style, for the most part, was unadorned. The story is presented simply – a father and son walk down a road, somewhere in the American South, through an ash covered landscape. Though sometimes it’s very difficult to walk down that road because civilization, laws and manners have vanished and packs of ruthless cannibals are everywhere. Yet the father persists. Because they “carry the light”. “We’re the good guys.”
This book reminded me of Emma Donaghue’s Room – basically the same plot, about the depth of parental love flowering in an intolerable situation. Saving the child becomes the organizing principle of the parent’s life, even though it is clear they are doomed. Room had more of a sense of humor and The Road has absolutely no sense of humor. Although in Room, our plucky heroes get rescued. Here there apparently is no rescue (though there is a hiker ex machina).
In this novel, humans have already destroyed the world. I liked the presentation of the destroyed landscapes, the mountains, the oceans, the cities. This novel was also a reminder and a meditation on what would actually happen if civilization was destroyed. We would revert back to the cunning animal state and it would be very bad news for the weak.
There are a few logical problems – in this imagined world there are no bugs, no rabbits, but our two humans keep running into lots of other humans and a seemingly unlimited supply of canned peaches.