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The Road Hardcover – September 26, 2006
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"Regretting You" by Colleen Hoover
From New York Times bestselling author of It Ends with Us comes a novel about family, first love, grief, and betrayal that will touch the hearts of both mothers and daughters. | Learn more
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Guest Reviewer: Dennis Lehane
Dennis Lehane, master of the hard-boiled thriller, generated a cult following with his series about private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, wowed readers with the intense and gut-wrenching Mystic River, blew fans all away with the mind-bending Shutter Island, and switches gears with Coronado, his new collection of gritty short stories (and one play).
Cormac McCarthy sets his new novel, The Road, in a post-apocalyptic blight of gray skies that drizzle ash, a world in which all matter of wildlife is extinct, starvation is not only prevalent but nearly all-encompassing, and marauding bands of cannibals roam the environment with pieces of human flesh stuck between their teeth. If this sounds oppressive and dispiriting, it is. McCarthy may have just set to paper the definitive vision of the world after nuclear war, and in this recent age of relentless saber-rattling by the global powers, it's not much of a leap to feel his vision could be not far off the mark nor, sadly, right around the corner. Stealing across this horrific (and that's the only word for it) landscape are an unnamed man and his emaciated son, a boy probably around the age of ten. It is the love the father feels for his son, a love as deep and acute as his grief, that could surprise readers of McCarthy's previous work. McCarthy's Gnostic impressions of mankind have left very little place for love. In fact that greatest love affair in any of his novels, I would argue, occurs between the Billy Parham and the wolf in The Crossing. But here the love of a desperate father for his sickly son transcends all else. McCarthy has always written about the battle between light and darkness; the darkness usually comprises 99.9% of the world, while any illumination is the weak shaft thrown by a penlight running low on batteries. In The Road, those batteries are almost out--the entire world is, quite literally, dying--so the final affirmation of hope in the novel's closing pages is all the more shocking and maybe all the more enduring as the boy takes all of his father's (and McCarthy's) rage at the hopeless folly of man and lays it down, lifting up, in its place, the oddest of all things: faith. --Dennis Lehane
The Road is now a major motion picture based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, starring Academy Award-nominee Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Enjoy these images from the film, and click the thumbnails to see larger images.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
- Lexile Measure : 670L
- Item Weight : 1.1 pounds
- Hardcover : 241 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0307265439
- ISBN-13 : 978-0307265432
- Product Dimensions : 9.56 x 6.02 x 1.16 inches
- Publisher : Alfred A. Knopf; 1st Edition (September 26, 2006)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #56,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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As far as dystopian literature goes, this is quite a step.
The story of a father and his son, walking to the sea through a ravaged, cold and grey world, hoping to somehow, find a better place, doesn't leave much space for a happy ending. Bleak is truly bleak here, not a lot of silver linings!
And yet...and yet, this is a beautiful book.
The writing is fantastic, for starter. The style, with short and descriptive sentences, carries the story to perfection. It also has a poetic quality that softens what is said/described and gives it another dimension.
The real beauty of the novel isn't on the outside though, but resides inside, in the incredible bond uniting father and son, a love so deep and unconditional that it seems to erase age gap and life experience, to only focus on their desire to care for each other. This love and concomitant sense of humanity stripped to its essence, manage to give sense and meaning to their otherwise hopeless journey.
On a deeper level, it also seems to invite us to reflect on what makes a life meaningful: beyond a primal survival instinct, what makes life worth living even when there is no hope in sight? The Road's answer is that, ultimately, what matters isn't "what" makes your life, but "how" you choose to live that "what"...
I'm a father. I read The Road years ago when my son was nine. I honestly had no idea at the time that I was picking up a book about a father and his roughly nine year old son. That's not a spoiler, you find that out on the first page.
Look, Cormac McCarthy writes so well I actually come back to his books on my shelves and open them up randomly, just to read a page and soothe my brain. But he digs the knife in so deep. I've actually hesitated to review his books before because there is so much beauty in the writing I just don't have the first ability to get a sense of it across.
More than that. I actually resented him after finishing this book. I wanted to shake his hand and punch him in the face. Maybe that's why I waited so long to finally admit this book deserves any accolade I could give it.
I finished The Road while sitting on a plane in Hong Kong, waiting to take off in the rain. I was a grown man, struggling so hard not to sob out loud that I started to choke. You might want to try "All the Pretty Horses" first, or even "No Country for Old Men," but those will grip you, too. I've never seen the man pull a punch. I think it also might depend where you are in your life. Just take my advice, if you're a father and you have a young boy, hold off on this, or at least read it when no one is around.
This is my third McCarthy read and it is definitely my favorite. The love of a mother nurtures the heart and the leadership the father shapes the character. The man (nameless father in the story) does everything to keep his son alive in this post apocalyptic world filled with danger and malice. This is a beautiful and admirable depiction of a father's devotion to his son. My favorite line(s) in this book are morbid and conflicting with my afromention protection but there was a moment where this instruction was the lesser of two fates:
"If they find you you are going to have to do it. Do you understand? Shh. No crying. Do you hear me? You know how to do it. You put it in your mouth and point it up. Do it quick and hard."
This book kept me humble and sane after living through a catastrophic hurricane and the havoc it wreaked on our way of life.
Five stars Cormac has produced a masterpiece with The Road. I could not stop reading it.
Top reviews from other countries
McCarthy's writing emotionally tied me to the characters without the usual writing conventions I'd expect, life doesn't necessarily provide us with nice neat answers or resolutions to things especially in this case where nothing is normal and will never be so again. Why worry about fripperies when all human life has been cleaved down to the barest essentials, the novel's style and prose reflects that in many ways. I was fully immersed in the story from the start, it's not a long book, it was easy to follow the various exchanges and the story flowed beautifully. But be warned it's emotionally draining and very bleak, it hurt my heart to read some of the passages, this truly frightening world McCarthy brought forth will live me for a long time.
Forget the whys and wherefores of how the earth reached this hellish state, that's honestly not important. The Road is basically a love story between a man and his son, McCarthy dedicates this book to his own little boy at the start and it's abidingly clear that the primary focus for the reader should be on this relationship and its development, it positively burns through the pages. Man and boy are nameless (as are most of the characters we meet) but it didn't lessen the power of his writing to convey the incredible depth of their love and reliance on each other.
What we do learn is that there was an apocalyptic event around the time of the boy's birth, its clear the effects were utterly devastating, life appears to have been extinguished save for a few pitiless souls left to walk the barren ash choked wasteland killing, stealing and scavenging for what's left of any canned/preserved food or worse resorting to cannibalism. They trudge day after day through a world that appears stripped of life, of colour and a future for humankind. The boy knows nothing of the time before the tragedy, living in constant fear, cold and hunger for him is normality for the father it's much worse, a desperate sadness at what has been lost that he is loathe to articulate, he remembers his old life in dreams and brief recollections and it's from these that we get further insights into the past with his wife and family.
The man is getting sicker by the day as they travel through the seemingly eternal grey, bleak, inhospitable, cold wasteland along a road. There is no sun, they are fighting constant starvation, the days are growing darker and colder as if heralding a nuclear style winter. They are moving south towards the coast as the father knows they can't survive another winter where they've been living. It's better for the father to have some goal to reach in order to hold on to his sanity and hope for the future and his son's well being so they keep on the move. Hope, humanity, goodness and faith are key here it's about "keeping the fire" as the father calls it, they are "the good guys" and his son demands reassurance of this fact at various stages and this sustains both of them despite the apparent desperateness of their situation.
The father is deeply mistrusting of anyone they meet with his fearsome desire to protect his child who he looks up to almost as a vessel of goodness in this hellish world. When certain incidents happen the boy gets very upset and begins to fear they are no longer the good guys, this schism reflects more on the general fear of any parent desperately wanting to equip their child with the tools for survival and independence but fighting the need to control and fiercely protect. To compound the issue, the father realises he's running out of time but equally the son carries the burden of knowing that soon he will be left alone to fend for himself, this forms an unbearable emotional strain between them.
The tenderness the father expresses towards his son was deeply moving, despite the sparseness of the dialogue between them, the father is only still alive because of his son who is equally dependent on him. His fear and anguish over the boy at key moments almost had me in tears, the future is left opaque and undecided, it may be hopeless it may not, the reader is left to surmise for themselves many things and that's how it should be. McCarthy's gift in his writing is to keenly show in a very painful and raw way how loving someone can be and that the strength found in that is sometimes enough to carrying on.
The rather stark, simple exchanges between father and son I found curiously moving and heartfelt and there are many touching little moments described. Also, the father is constantly tormented wondering if the time comes could he kill his child to spare him almost certain defilement. I can only imagine how much this story would resonate and especially if you're a parent. "You have my whole heart", the father says at one point, such simple honest beauty in that line!
The Road shows us the strength of love and how in our darkest moments it can bind and hold people together against extreme circumstances that should crush the human spirit. Yet some if us choose to go on even if in the end the universe makes our existence appear almost meaningless. I can see why this book won acclaim.
This is my first Cormac McCarthy novel and in all honesty it’ll probably be my last. At present I have no desire or intention of ever reading McCarthy’s work again. This isn’t a reflection of the quality of his writing, which is in fact, wonderfully creative. Staggeringly so.
McCarthy employs a very simple, but wholly immersive narrative style in this book. His characters are nameless. Cormac gives them a gender and a rough age, but that’s about it. His sentence structure is stripped down to the bare bones, in that he discards conventional use of punctuation and grammar, in favour of a flowing, short structure, cut with the occasional longer, more poetic monologue from the narrator’s point of view.
This approach is hugely effective. The short, sparse structure reflects and amplifies the bleakness of the world he has placed his poor characters into. The longer monologues are beautiful, insightful and heart-breaking at times; these moments shine a bright light onto the broken structure between, making the shadows they cast and struggles described in them all the more dark…. inescapable.
Aside from the skill in the rudimentary narrative and prose, Cormac employs some of the most immersive, descriptive settings and conveyance of the complexities of emotions his characters suffer through I’ve ever experienced.
This book is so wonderfully written, it is simply beautiful, the use of language to convey such hardship, such stark, stripped back humanity and beauty, but by God, it is bleak, and the most emotionally-draining piece of literature I’ve encountered.
The world of The Road is so very bleak, so lacking in joy or comfort or hope. Reading this book was a trial for me, I didn’t want to continue, but its beauty and humanity and raw splendour dragged me along despite myself.
If you are in any way prone to depression or periods of low mods, I would recommend avoiding this book, at least until happier times. It is a marvel, it is simply one of the most staggeringly gorgeous and horrifically desperate pieces of fiction I’ve read. I’ll never read this book again, but the gap it let in me will remain forever.
The story jumps around like a child’s book from one scene to the next literally in paragraphs. I had no connection to the two or any environmental imagery to feed my immagination, apart from two people in the woods/a road oh a cab no truck oh here’s the trolley....ahh so boring...just stop
I’m about 50 pages in and i just cant be bothered reading anymore, what a waste of my time and effort.
Plus the binding is shocking, most of the pages have fallen out in a brief spell of heat.
Just watch the walking dead or something else, this is just so poorly written.