When I finished The Road I threw it across the room and screamed. Most of my screaming was pure, unadulterated hate directed at Cormac McCarthy. The book hit the wall, and I left it there, on the floor, for days. I thought about burning it, but I’m philosophically opposed to burning books. Everyone should read it.
The Road is brilliantly written. In fact, I think Cormac McCarthy might be the greatest writer of modern times. He’s a genius at crafting words, at creating characters that grab you, that you develop a deep connection with. The road is described by many people as bleak, but that doesn’t cover it. It’s devoid of light, of hope, of any that might for a moment alleviate the sheer crushing horror of the world Cormac McCarthy has created. I know people who wept openly while reading it. Now, I didn’t… because I didn’t know how it ended yet. I thought maybe, maybe some glimmer of hope, some tiny respite from the dark.
I should warn you, there are spoilers below. If you don’t want to know the ending of the book, don’t read this next bit.
Many people are disturbed by the babies being bred for food. Many people are turned off by the cannibalism, the rape, the murder… I could handle all of that. The ending though, the fact that in the final moment there is no good, respite, no peace. The man dies, the little boy is clearly going to. The oceans are dead, the skies are black, the trees are burning. All of that is always true, but the oceans – the cradle of life on the planet. When those are dead, when even that tiny piece of hope is denied to the reader… well, there’s nothing left.
I have ongoing issues with Cormac McCarthy. Nobody ever learns, nobody changes, his stories are bleak in a way that no other writer manages, but the road makes the darkest of his other work look like Harry Potter. Read it, it’s not merely good, it’s brilliant – but keep in mind that it will hurt you, deeply, if you dare to love it.
Traverse Davies is a writer and journalist based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can read more of his work at http://dreamtime.logic11.com