The Road is one of those books that I knew I should get around to, but just never seemed to make its way into my reading rotation. I knew that it was post-apocalyptic, which I enjoy. I knew that McCarthy is a well-respected author, for good reason. I was waiting to watch the movie until I read the book, and even that wasn't enough of a push. Well, I finally got around to it, and now I know why I resisted. I knew that the story was depressing as hell and it would suck me into its dark, ash-filled, cannibalistic world like a black hole sucks in light.
The story centers around a man and his son, wandering a world that is utterly dead. While this is obviously because of some man-made disaster, we never really learn what. The man and his son have been wandering and scavenging for years, sometimes going days without finding anything to eat. There are no animals, nothing grows-the earth is filled with ash and smoke and burned out cities. They often have to hide from gangs of cannibals, looking for other survivors to hold captive and use as food. Despite the apparent hopelessness of the situation, the man and his son keep traveling along the road, not really believing that things might be better on the coast, but unable to bow to the seeming inevitability of death.
Here's the thing-despite the fact that at least once I was contemplating suicide on the characters' behalf, I loved this book. The writing is genius. I've never read any of McCarthy's books before, but if all of them have the same ability to convey with just a few words the enormity of life and love and death then I'll read them all. I'm always in awe of authors who can choose exactly the right words to create a vivid picture for the reader-no more and no less. Being rather verbose myself, I admire this ability. I also admire the imagination that can come up with this kind of skewed reality in the first place. Though it makes me wonder what kind of dark place McCarthy's mind is.
My one complaint-the ending. Not that it is left completely open-ended. I get that as a metaphor for life in general, and that as long as there is life the story is never over, everything is uncertain except for the passage of time, etc..In fact, my complaint is that the story should have ended about 10 pages sooner than it did, with the boy completely alone. Now THAT would have been a head-scratcher, real food for thought, a book group discussion starter. Despite my feeling that he caved a little bit at the end, overall I am deeply affected by this book, and find myself thinking about it off and on in the days since I finished it. What more can a book have to recommend it than that?