Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Exfanding Review: The Road

Sometimes books tend to lie around and pile up and get altogether ignored by the people who buy them. Which is kind of sad, actually, but certainly true. In my case especially, books pile up and become forgotten about, even if they were at one time purchased with excitement and the best of intentions.

Take The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.

Obviously a book that I "should" read. Obviously a book that was well reviewed as one of the most important novels of the past decade. Does the word, Pulitzer, mean anything to you?

Still, I've somehow managed to leave that particular book on the shelf of bookstores across the country for the better part of the last four years.

Now, I’m not exactly what you’d call a mainstream reader. My books tend to be from weird and obscure indy publishers, mostly horror, and mostly in paperback editions that no bookstore carries.

As a result, I order a lot of books online--out of necessity, not out of some digital obsession--and in doing so I come across even more obscure, weird titles from publishers on one has ever heard of.

Still, I enjoy some mainstream work—even the most mainstream of work—and when it came out, The Road was at the top of my to-read list. Every time I’d see it in a bookstore, I’d pick it up, read the description, and put it back, figuring that I'd probably just grab it the next time I was at the store.

Well, just about five years after its publication, I finally bought a (reader's) copy of The Road, a decision that was sparked by my finding a first edition a couple of weekends ago.

The Road is about a father and son in a post-apocalyptic America, desperately trying to travel to the coast in search of warmer weather, food, and "the good guys."

Though it is never fully explained, we know that the story picks up some years after a catastrophic event has wiped out most all life in America, and very likely, on Earth. And yet, out of sheer determination and will, this un-named father and son have somehow managed to survive, scrounging food where they can and fending off attacks from "the bad guys."

In The Road, McCarthy shows us the very best and worst of humanity.

The will to live, to keep going, is admirable and heart wrenching as we witness the man and the boy continue on. It's also despicable and evil when we see the lengths to which others have gone to survive.

There are horrors and mysteries on the road to the coast, and McCarthy builds tension superbly. And, while the plot and the journey to the coast and all the unanswered questions about what happened are engaging and intriguing, it's the relationship between father and son that makes this book a classic.

It is all at once familiar and foreign, uplifting and heartbreaking.

The Road is a novel that stays with you, well after you've closed its pages. McCarthy's limited use of descriptors, and economical use of words in general make the pace a furious one, and the two main characters make it impossible to leave the pages for too long.

I know this review is five years too late, but if you're like me and you put off this book for whatever reason, do yourself a favor and don't wait until the next time you see it.


Flashman85 said...

Wait, did Viggo Mortensen star in a movie based on this book? 'Cuz I watched the first 10 minutes and was so turned off that I went off to play video games instead.

Not to totally invalidate your like for the book, or anything.

AJG said...

Yep, the movie was based on the book. Though I have not seen the movie, I haven't heard great things about it, and I don't think it was well-recieved.

Anonymous said...

Can I borrow your reader's copy at some point?