Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Road

Cormac McCarthy received the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished fiction by an American author in 2007 for his novel The Road published a year earlier.  The Road was also a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and a New York Times Notable Book among many other accolades. 

In November 2009, The Road was released as a major motion picture with Viggo Mortensen as the father and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the son.  Both of them and the filmakers have received numerous nominations for awards from film critic associations. Charlize Theron and Robert DuVall also star in this highly acclaimed film.

The story takes place after an apocolyptic event destroys all life on earth other than an unknown, perhaps small, number of humans.   The reader doesn't know exactly whether the devastation of the earth is nuclear or natural in its origin.  All is rubble, dust, and ash.  Everything is mostly grey.  The weather is cold with grey sunlight, with grey rain, or grey snow. Even the water is dark and putrid.

As the book begins, a father and son have already lived a harsh nomadic life, scavenging for unperishable food and any tools and supplies just to survive, for almost a decade.  The boy has known no other life.  The journey continues endlessly from day to day.  The reader wonders what will happen once all the canned goods are gone.

There are good people and bad people divided mainly by their diets.  Danger lurks around every bend in the road existing or non-existing.  The reader is on edge as are the characters not knowing what will happen at any given moment.

The relationship between the father and the son is the only steadily positive force. On the book jacket of the 2006 Alfred A. Knopf edition, a profound summary appears:  "[The Road] is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of:  ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation."

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