Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Road

I just finished reading "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy and I'm still not sure what to think of it.

The premise of the book is that following some event (the reader isn't sure what exactly happened), the earth is rendered almost completely lifeless save for a few people who presumably were able to take shelter during the event and live through it. There are no animals, no foliage, nothing. A father and his son, armed with a pistol, two bullets and a shopping cart, are trying to make their way to the coast. What the father expects to find at the coast is unclear, but it's clear they can't stay in any one place for two long--roving bands of canibals roam the land and no place is safe. Because what happens when there's no vegetation and no animals? There's no food. (The father and son are not canibals and survive on what few canned goods they can scrounge up here and there, but they're at starvation's door throughout most of the book as it's been years since the "event" and most places have been thoroughly ransacked by the few remaining humans.)

So what follows is 287 pages of utter bleakness. It's hands down the most depressing and disturbing books I've ever read. By far. After one particular scene, I had to put the book down for about two weeks and switch to some light-hearted chick lit in order to give myself a break.

I contemplated shelving the book permanently, which I rarely do, but in the end I decided to keep reading anyway and I'm glad I did. Despite the unyielding bleakness, the book is absolutely captivating and compelling. For someone who reads at night and is lucky to get through a single page without my eyelids getting heavy, I found myself easily reading 20+ pages a night. Part of that is the style: there are no chapters, just short paragraphs and the narrative is pretty concise. There is little in the way of punctuation (which apparently aggravated some people on Amazon) and what little dialogue there is is short and to the point. But the other part is the story itself; the father's love for his child is deeply moving and their hope that things will get better makes it difficult to put the book down.

It's hard to say that I enjoyed the book because it was so heavy (oh hey, did I mention its bleakness yet?), but it's undeniable that there is something to it. Apparently, this is a pretty good representation of McCarthy's other books, but this is the first I've read. I'm honestly surprised that it's been as popular as it has been because I have a really hard time figuring out how this appeals to the masses. And what further boggles my mind is that they're making a movie out of this. According to IMDB, Viggo Mortenson plays the father and Charlize Theron the mother. If it follows the book at all, she's going to have a very small part. Oh and if you doubt my description of how utterly depressing this book is, check out the list of characters on IMDB. See what I mean?

Anyway, it's expected to be released October 16, 2009 and honestly, I doubt I'll see it. I think the book was enough for me, but we'll see what Pajiba has to say about it when it comes out and decide then.

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