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The Road (Movie Tie-in Edition 2008 of the 2006 publication) Mass Market Paperback – November 18, 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 4,169 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Best known for his Border Trilogy, hailed in the San Francisco Chronicle as "an American classic to stand with the finest literary achievements of the century," Cormac McCarthy has written ten rich and often brutal novels, including the bestselling No Country for Old Men, and The Road. Profoundly dark, told in spare, searing prose, The Road is a post-apocalyptic masterpiece, one of the best books we've read this year, but in case you need a second (and expert) opinion, we asked Dennis Lehane, author of equally rich, occasionally bleak and brutal novels, to read it and give us his take. Read his glowing review below. --Daphne Durham


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



--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

McCarthy's latest novel, a frightening apocalyptic vision, is narrated by a nameless man, one of the few survivors of an unspecified civilization-ending catastrophe. He and his young son are trekking along a treacherous highway, starving and freezing, trying to avoid roving cannibal armies. The tale, and their lives, are saved from teetering over the edge of bleakness thanks to the man's fierce belief that they are "the good guys" who are preserving the light of humanity. In this stark, effective production, Stechschulte gives the father an appropriately harsh, weary voice that sways little from its numbed register except to urge on the weakening boy or soothe his fears after an encounter with barbarians. When they uncover some vestige of the former world, the man recalls its vanished wonder with an aching nostalgia that makes the listener's heart swell. Stechschulte portrays the son with a mournful, slightly breathy tone that emphasizes the child's whininess, making him much less sympathetic than his resourceful father. With no music or effects interrupting Stechschulte's carefully measured pace and gruff, straightforward delivery, McCarthy's darkly poetic prose comes alive in a way that will transfix listeners.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 287 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage International (May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307472124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307472120
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4,169 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sir Charles Panther VINE VOICE on September 28, 2007
Format: Paperback
"The nights were blinding cold and casket black and the long reach of the morning had a terrible silence to it."

"...Creedless shells of men tottering down the causeways like migrants in a feverland."

I neither buy nor read collections of poetry. I can count the poems I know, at least the non-limerick ones, on a single hand. I'm not a fan of poetry, and I truly see much of it as overblown, a good thing taken to a ridiculously inflated extreme. This book isn't poetry, but it's also not pure narrative. It's somewhere in the gray between, and I enjoyed every single page of it.

McCarthy had me on the 14th line when I read "granitic beast." No, I didn't have to be told this was a reference to stone. Its use here, early in the work, deliberate, familiar yet uncommon, communicated to me exactly what this book would be about, and more importantly how it would be told, and I couldn't wait to ingest it. The contemplated and intentional use of this word in this place told me of texture and color and temperature, and its context told me of fear, uncertainty, cruelty, and the close specter of menace. I was hooked before the first page was done.

I enjoyed this book's writing style immensely, its story simple and told in a manner that came to me clearly, instantly creating depth with a minimum of prose. Words like "envaccuuming," and phrases like "isocline of death" were absolutely brilliant--I bite my hand melodramatically wishing I'd written them. This highly evocative austerity was mirrored in the father's and the son's conversations, in which so little was said, but in which I was seeing absolutely clearly the cant of a head, a look in the eyes, the faintest curl of smile.
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Format: Paperback
"The Road" is a work of stunning, savage, heartbreaking beauty. Set in the post-apocalyptic hell of an unending nuclear winter, Cormac McCarthy writes about a nameless man and his young son, wandering through a world gone crazy; bleak, cold, dark, where the snow falls down gray; moving south toward the coast, looking somewhere, anywhere, for life and warmth. Nothing grows in this blasted world; people turn into cannibals to survive. We don't know if we're looking at the aftermath of a nuclear war, or maybe an extinction level event -- an asteroid or a comet; McCarthy deliberately doesn't tell us, and we come to realize it doesn't matter anyway. Whether man or nature threw a wild pitch, the world is just as dead.

The boy's mother is a suicide, unable to face living in a world where everything's gone gray and dead. Keep on living and you'll end up raped and murdered along with everybody else, she tells the man. The man and his son are "each the other's world entire"; they have only each other, they live for each other, and their intense love for each other will help them survive. At least for a while.

But survival in this brave new world is a dicey prospect at best; the boy and the man are subjected to sights no one should ever have to see. Every day is a scavenger hunt for food and shelter and safety from the "bad guys", the marauding gangs who enslave the weak and resort to cannibalism for lack of any other food. We are the good guys, the man assures his son. Yet in their rare encounters with other living human beings, the man resorts to primitive survivalism, refusing help to a lost child and a starving man, living only for himself and his son, who is trying to hold onto whatever humanity he has left.
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Format: Hardcover
By now we all know that Cormac McCarthy's The Road is a disturbing post-apocalyptic novel centered around an unnamed man and his son and their struggle for survival. As was expected, many things in the novel are horrific yet described with McCarthy's ability to see beauty in the grotesque (it is this fact, by the way, that makes me see him as more of Southern writer than a Western one). Most of these things are known about the novel by reading the first paragraph of the many, many reviews, but none of these things have anything to do with what makes the novel good or bad to me.

I recently read A Farewell to Arms and in many ways I was reminded of the war sections of that book while reading The Road. Not only are we looking at, in both, the ability of man to persevere even when all hope is gone, but one scene in The Road of the man considering hiding out in a barn seemed so reminiscent of a similar scene in A Farewell to Arms that I had to read it as some sort of tribute. Also we could look at the one image of hope in McCarthy's novel as also taken from Hemingway, as Jennifer Egan notes in her essay "Men at Work" from Slate.com.

The comparisons to Hemingway end there. The language of The Road may be verbose, more descriptive, but this is much bleaker than anything I've read by Hemingway. McCarthy, through repetitive struggles, similar scenes and the perpetual ash, pushes the reader into feeling some of the hopelessness felt by his characters. The lack of chapter breaks in the novel also helps to force us along. I made the mistake of often reading the book before bed and I fell asleep then with the images of burn and barren, ash-covered landscapes and the feeling that someone was always behind me, following, just out of sight.
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