Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

A father and son walk along a road in a post-apocalyptic future. Around them, everything is dead or dying. Between sunup and sundown, the sky’s color changes by only a few shades of gray. It’s numbingly cold, and ash falls from the sky nearly all the time. The reader is never told what could have caused the world to turn out like this, but it’s not hard to imagine that it could be a nuclear explosion. In the end, it doesn’t much matter what caused it all, because there is life to attend to. The little boy needs to be fed and protected, and the father devotes himself to that. There are other survivors, but it’s hard to tell who “the good guys” are, those “who carry the fire.” McCarthy ventures into the deepest, darkest recesses of the human heart, and chronicles what he sees in vivid, yet restrained prose. Some survivors engage in cannibalism; others have organized in armies, red scarves at their necks, killing and stealing and rampaging; slavery reappears; and through all this madness the father must find food and protect his little boy. I had to put this book down a couple of times because I was not sure I could finish it. But I cared about the characters far too much to stay away, and so I picked it up again and finished it in one sitting. What Cormac McCarthy has done in his new novel is difficult, brave, and incredibly well-executed. A masterpiece.