Review : The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Pages : 287
Genre : Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From the back of the book :

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

I have been putting off seeing the movie ever since it came out because I wanted to read the book first, and now that I’ve read it, I don’t know that I actually want to see it. What a depressing story! The Road is a small book, but it packs a punch. I tried to read it in one setting and I couldn’t : even though I was captivated, it was too bleak to read at once. I had to come up for air in between the pages.

It’s impressive how much McCarthy can give the reader in so few words, both so simple and so rich at the same time! The sentences are short, the dialogs minimal, and no detailed story is given as to how, exactly, the world “ended” : yet I felt the story and the characters were very complete. I was too taken by the father and son duo to care much about the political or ecological circumstances that were at the origin or their situation. No matter the reason, it was scary and heartbreaking and horrific and bleak.

The relationship between the father and the son made it worth my while though. I think McCarthy found a right balance between the tender moments and the more difficult ones. The kid was very kid-like, understanding only part of what was happening, and the father’s love was vibrant through the pages. The fact that they remain nameless through the story didn’t bother me, and in fact made their story kind of universal. It wasn’t about race or age or occupation : it really was about their relationship and what they had to go through.

It’s once of these books where it’s hard to put “stars” on it : I gave it 4, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, a few months from now, I moved it up a bit. I know I’ll want to read it again someday, too. One thing is sure, it’s the kind of book you don’t forget.

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14 responses to “Review : The Road”

  1. Coffee and a Book Chick says :

    I saw the movie recently (haven’t read the book yet, unfortunately). The movie is heartbreaking and terrifying and sad — it’s definitely not a pick me up movie! But it’s well done and Viggo Mortensen and the boy playing as his son do a really fantastic job, I thought.

  2. Fyrefly says :

    It’s been a long while since I’ve read this, but it was just too bleak for me to really rate it particularly highly (despite being able to recognize that on a technical level, it was really well done). Particularly since it was so bleak, without even a small ray of hope, that I felt like it kind of overwhelmed the rest of the story – why bother trying to save your son when there is nothing to save him *for*?

  3. Amanda says :

    For some reason I couldn’t get into this one and abandoned it about 30 pages in back in 2008.

  4. Steph says :

    I thought this book was so harrowing when I read it. It was hard for me to pick it up whenever I put it down because I was just so certain that something bad was going to happen to the characters and I couldn’t stand it. Still, it’s a book that I thought was very profound and important for me to read, and I’m glad that I did. I definitely don’t want to see the movie though! I don’t think I could take it!

  5. Tara SG (25 Hour Books) says :

    While I agree that this book is dark, I found it really uplifting. I think I focused on how important it was that they stayed good when it would have been easier to steal or other terrible things.

    The movie was surprisingly good (in my opinion). It fit to the book and while it was also dark, it added some back story about the mom which brought even more to the relationship with the father and son.

  6. Staci says :

    It was bleak but hope shines at the end!! I loved this one and gave it 5 stars. My son and I have been meaning to get our hands on the DVD one of these days!

  7. Doug Knipe [SciFiGuy] says :

    I love the diversity of opinion on this book. Myself I have read perhaps hundreds of post apocalyptic stories and consider The Road to be one of the most over-hyped over rated novels of it’s time. A good editor would have condensed it into a 32 page short story.

  8. kay says :

    Coffee and a Book Chick : It sounds like the movie did a great portraying of the book’s atmosphere! I’m sure I’ll see it at some point – I’m too curious not to! – but probably later on.

    Fyrefly : That’s a good point. I think the book could have been as bleak, yet have a touch of hope, too.

    Amanda : Sorry to hear that, Amanda! Do you think you’ll give it a try at another time, or are you done with it?

    Steph : I’m glad I read it, too! Like you, I thought it was really hard to pick it up once I put it down. I began reading it on a six hours car ride to my mother’s home, and I was sure I’b be done before we got there, but I didn’t even read the half of it then!

    Tara : I think you’re the first I hear saying this book was uplifting, but the way you explain it, it makes great sense! I think that, if I one day read it again, it would give me a different perspective on it.

    Staci : I’d be curious to know if you enjoy the movie as much as the book! I’ll probably wait a while before reading it.

    Doug : Although I enjoyed the book, I think it would have made a terrific short story! It’s interesting though, because if someone asked me to recommend a post-apocalyptic book, The Road wouldn’t be my first suggestion. I don’t know why, but for me it feels a lot more “fiction”, maybe because of the quasi-absence of explication, context, and such. So, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

  9. alitareads says :

    I feel very much in the minority because I did not like this book. Like you, I could only read a few pages at a time before having to put it down for a bit. I can’t pin point exactly what it was about it that made me dislike it. Probably the combination of gloominess and that nothing happens.

    But – I do want to see the movie at some point. Is that weird?

    • kay says :

      Alita, I know many readers who didn’t enjoy this book! Because it’s so bleak, I found it hard to motivate myself to pick it up. And true, not much happens. I still enjoyed the writing though, but it’s one of these books that, even though I enjoyed, I can see why others wouldn’t! In fact, I’m surprised I did “liked” it, it’s way out of my comfort zone.

      And how ironic is it, that you want to see the movie but didn’t like the book, but I liked the book and don’t want to see the movie? 😛

  10. Jenni says :

    I really found the relationship between the boy and his father to be so heartfelt that it carried me through the bleakness of the story. I just reviewed this book as well! One question…How old did you envision the boy to be?

  11. Jim says :

    The movie tries to stay true to the book, and I think it manages to stay relatively faithful, though it smooths over some of the really chilling parts. After I read (and watched) it, I could help think that it is ripe for a sequel.

  12. Jim says :

    Also, you might try McCarthy’s NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (as well as the movie adaptation), providing you haven’t seen it yet.

  13. Julie @ Knitting and Sundires says :

    This one is on my I-Must-Read-Before-I-Die list. I also have not seen the movie, but I have a feeling that I would totally be more into the book. With a dark story, a book gives you a chance to breathe, and a movie doesn’t.

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