A-Z Wednesday reading challenge. I could choose no other than Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Road. This is one of the most haunting novels I have ever read -- bleak, chilling, yet in the end, in its own way, uplifting. A true literary masterpiece.
The Road features a father and son, travelling south through the eastern United States, on foot. The setting is post-apocalyptic, barren and ashy. Few people have survived. It is late fall or early winter and it is very cold. There are constant dangers, including other survivors who have adopted evil, cannabilistic lifestyles. These two, father and son, should have no hope, but yet they do, yet they continue on. The novel highlights a world that has almost destroyed itself, yet you come to realize that it also highlights love. McCarthy dedicated this book to his son and although it is a chilling, harrowing tale, it also illustrates the unending devotion a parent can have for their child. When all else is lost, that love is not.
I sought out this book after watching McCarthy being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. It was an awkward interview; clearly the man did not want to talk to her yet both he and Oprah soldiered on. It was fascinating and I wanted to know more about him, and about this book. The only other McCarthy novel I have read is No Country for Old Men, a violent tale that left me unsatisfied. But this book? This one I loved.
I must warn you though, The Road is not an easy read. You will care about the well-being of the father and son but still, this is not a light, feel-good book; it is only after closing the pages the final time does the message really sink in. However, McCarthy also writes with a beautiful, lyrical prose; in that sense, the book is a true joy to read.
While I highly recommend The Road, I do recognize that many will want to pass it by. Personally, it is a favourite of mine and I also look forward to seeing the upcoming movie and only hope it does this book justice.
Here's a small excerpt:
He woke before dawn and watched the gray day break. Slow and half opaque. He rose while the boy slept and pulled on his shoes and wrapped in his blanket he walked out through the trees. He descended into a gryke in the stone and there he crouched coughing and he coughed for a long time. Then he just knelt in the ashes. He raised his face to the paling day. Are you there? he whispered. Will I see you at the last? Have you a neck by which to throttle you? Have you a heart? Damn you eternally have you a soul? Oh God, he whispered. Oh God.
They passed through the city at noon of the day following. He kept the pistol to hand on the folded tarp on top of the cart. He kept the boy close to his side. The city was mostly burned. No sign of life. Cars in the street caked with ash, everything covered with ash and dust. Fossil tracks in the dried sludge. A corpse in a doorway dried to leather. Grimacing at the day. He pulled the boy closer. Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that.
You forget some things, dont you?
Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.