Yes, I know that Oprah recently put this out as the pick of her book club, but don’t hold that against it.
The Road tells the story of a father and son as they struggle for survival in a world that is gasping its last. We are never told exactly what happened to the world; it could be any of the end-times scenarios that mankind has either dreamed up or made possible. It really doesn’t matter how things got so bad, just that they are so bad.
Theirs is a burden to “carry the fire,” that essential goodness of our common humanity, so easy to maintain in the day-to-day, but which finds itself tested when other avenues offer simpler means to live another hour.
McCarthy’s text reflects the dying fire in its spare verbiage, bleak words painted on a gray canvas, in which even the most brutal of acts by man against man are stated with an unsettling numbness. In a world in which everything is in short supply, nothing should be wasted – neither food, nor bullets, nor words, nor punctuation.
Through much of the book, the only color in the land exists in the relationship between the father and son, where hope and love make them “each the other’s world entire.” By stories end, as other bits of color are found, despite the hopelessness of it all, we realize that hope we must – for what is the alternative? Maybe hope is just enough to keep us going.
Well worth the read.
Update: Looks like The Road has won the Pulitzer.