My review of The Road by Cormac McCarthy

6288. sy475 The Road
I had read this book before, about seven years ago and had mentally shelved it in the ‘a good read’ section. Somehow, this time the story appeared distorted, as if the author has edited it, taken bits out surreptitiously, while no one was watching. Strange how mind plays tricks on you. As before, I found it a disturbing book, yet absorbing, mystifying and harrowing. Why? Because it shows how a man would react if put under tremendous pressure of life and death.
For whatever reason, be it nuclear war or environmental collapse, the world has gone to hell, a wasteland of perpetual grayness and ash. Very little grows anymore, and the air itself is toxic. The survivors are physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted. Civilisation has completely collapsed. There is no sense of history or the reason for the calamity. Is it natural or caused by human activity.
The man and the boy (that’s the only names we are ever given for them) are a handful of survivors. But for how long? They know the end is near; they are bound to die of starvation. They communicate rarely, when they do it is bare and in seemingly inane phrases. The exchanges are totally lacking in any substance, reminiscent of that in Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. It shows the psychological states of the man and the boy, when you live in a world where you’re under constant threat from roaming gangs of cannibals, dying of starvation and perhaps even exposure along with the knowledge that you will have to kill your son should the said cannibals finally catch up with you.
Half way through we are told that the father and son are traveling to the beach, a distance of several hundred miles as if that is where they will find ultimate salvation – food and safety. They push all their worldly possessions in a shopping cart. Such a journey seems like a fool’s errand. But what other choice do they have? The two cling onto something, a fire, a hope.
Long after I put down this book I kept thinking about it. Is it a prediction, could it actually come to pass in the near future. Somehow, it doesn’t seem that improbable.
Finally, did I like this book? I will say yes and no. No – because it is so harrowing. Yes – because it is so well written, a literary masterpiece. If I was asked to be more decisive, not sit on the fence. I will put ‘yes’ in the ballot box.
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