This 2007 winner of the Pulitzer prize is dark and murky, hard, and yet tender. Apparently I simply cannot stop reading post-apocalyptic fiction and I continue to marvel at a good story presented to me by great authors. We will discuss this work on May 20 at the Jay County Public Library and I am almost certain that the very proper good ladies of group will mostly not like it, and perhaps there will be only a few of us who finished it. Update to follow this post after group. That being noted, I loved it and read it twice.
It is disconcerting always to begin a book by an author who uses no quotation marks and haphazardly interjects apostrophes, but one soon gets used to it and it doesn't keep the reader from knowing what is being said or who is speaking. However, I would like to know the reasoning for this style of writing.
I was hooked on page one with the line, “Like Pilgrims in a fable swallowed up and lost among the inward parts of a granitic beast.” For pilgrims they are and the “granitic beast” is actually the post apocalyptic world they are stuck in. My first sticky note was on page 5, “They set out along the blacktop in the gun-metal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other's world entire,” and already I knew that the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it has happened, years have gone by in a type of nuclear winter, and the boy and his father are seeking people and refuge. Reading a book with sparse wording so full of emotion and clear imagery is fun. I admire a writer that can do that so well. It is clear to me why so many say The Road is too dark, too depressing, and yes even boring. Those readers are looking for escape, or plot driven intrigue, or intricate characters. But it is also good to read for the nugget of wisdom hidden in a good story, and a book to make you wonder about what it would be like if the end did come, without codling the reader and making things come out too easily or unbelievably. That is what usually happens in YA lit and we should be beyond that.
McCarthy makes the reader afraid, and makes one able to anticipate what is going to be down the road when the boy and his father trek on. There are cannibals, marauders, dead carcasses aplenty, much dirty rain, and many cold nights. The father teaches the boy lessons as they travel and also tries sometimes to shelter him from the most ugly or evil for as he says more than once in this book, “...the things you put in our head are there forever.” One can see and feel the textures and colors, and even feel the cold through McCarthy's creative use of language like, “cauterized terrain,” “vestibular calculations,” and “cold autistic dark.”
There are warm scenes also showing the total love and devotion of a parent for a child and a belief that goodness is there but you may have to search for it. Honestly, I don't know why so many people shy away from the tale noir. I find a great dark tale fascinating.