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Summary and book reviews of The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

The Road
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2007, 304 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

A searing, postapocalyptic novel by the author of the much loved Border Trilogy.

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it 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.

Excerpt
The Road

When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. His hand rose and fell softly with each precious breath. He pushed away the plastic tarpaulin and raised himself in the stinking robes and blankets and looked toward the east for any light but there was none. In the dream from which he'd wakened he had wandered in a cave where the child led him by the hand. Their light playing over the wet flowstone walls. Like pilgrims in a fable swallowed up and lost among the inward parts of some granitic beast. Deep stone flues where the water dripped and sang. Tolling in the silence the minutes of the earth and the hours and the days of it and the years without cease. Until they stood in a great stone room where lay a black and ancient lake. And on the far shore a ...

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ABOUT THIS BOOK
Set in the smoking ashes of a postapocalyptic America, Cormac McCarthy's The Road tells the story of a man and his son's journey toward the sea and an uncertain salvation. The world they pass through is a ghastly vision of scorched countryside and blasted cities "held by cores of blackened looters who tunneled among the ruins and crawled from the rubble white of tooth and eye carrying charred and anonymous tins of food in nylon nets like shoppers in the commissaries of hell" [p. 181]. It is a starved world, all plant and animal life dead or dying, some of the few human survivors even eating each other alive.

The father and son move through the ruins searching for food and shelter, trying to keep safe from murderous, roving ...
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  • award image

    Pulitzer Prize for Letters, Drama and Music
    2007

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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As a prophetic vision of the end times, McCarthy's interpretation would leave the fire and brimstone prophets of old quaking in their sandals. As a parable or allegory, The Road offers rich veins of interpretation, precisely because it lacks a clear message, leaving it up to the reader to interpret it as they see fit.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (931 words).

Media Reviews

The Houston Chronicle - Earl Dachslager

Presumably the reason for all this secretiveness is to lend the story an air of mystery, to turn it into a parable of the moral and physical degeneration of our time. But for a parable to succeed, it needs to have some clear point or message. The Road has neither, other than to say that after an earth-destroying event, things will go hard for the survivors. In the end The Road reminds me most of the 1981 movie The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max); that is, if you can imagine The Road Warrior as co-scripted by Faulkner, Hemingway, Conrad and Samuel Beckett.

Chicago Tribune

Why read this? . . . Because in its lapidary transcription of the deepest despair short of total annihilation we may ever know, this book announces the triumph of language over nothingness.

The Washington Post - Ron Charles

With this apocalyptic tale, McCarthy has moved into the allegorical realm of Samuel Beckett and José Saramago -- and, weirdly, George Romero.

The New York Times - Janet Maslin

Mr. McCarthy brings an almost biblical fury as he bears witness to sights man was never meant to see.

The San Francisco Chronicle

His tale of survival and the miracle of goodness only adds to McCarthy's stature as a living master. It's gripping, frightning, and, ultimately, beautiful. It might very well be the best book of the year, period.

The New York Times Book Review - William Kennedy

[T]he most readable of his works, and consistently brilliant in its imagining of the posthumous condition of nature and civilization—"the frailty of everything revealed at last. Old and troubling issues resolved into nothingness and night."

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. McCarthy establishes himself here as the closest thing in American literature to an Old Testament prophet, trolling the blackest registers of human emotion to create a haunting and grim novel about civilization's slow death after the power goes out.

The Observer - Adam Mars-Jones

The Road isn't a fable, or a prophesy, or even a tract in the manner of Shute's On the Beach. It's a thought and feeling experiment, bleak, exhilarating (in fact, endurable) only because of its integrity, its wholeness of seeing. The man pushing his shopping cart towards nothing hopeful, boxing the compass of despair, makes Brecht's Mother Courage seem downright fortunate in the choices she must make.

Reader Reviews

Alexis VanHorn

The Road
Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road is a touching book that changed the way I look at life. The Road makes you realize everything that you actually have and to never take anything for granted. This book goes by very fast and is written beautifully. As ...   Read More

Dave

The Road
I would read this book on my lunch hour at work. After closing the book I would thank the Lord for my food because I was transported from The Road. I was the third person walking next to the father and son but how could this be done it's only a ...   Read More

Brayden Stotler

Nice
I loved the book. Wow, it is the bomb.

Ally

Great Book
I just read this book for an AP English IV paper. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Unlike another reviewer, I liked McCarthy's use of the stereotypical father/son (father willing to do anything to protect the son). I found that it made the book relatable to ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island. He attended the University of Tennessee in the early 1950s, and joined the U.S. Air Force, serving four years, two of them stationed in Alaska. McCarthy then returned to the university, where he published in the student literary magazine and won the Ingram-Merrill Award for creative writing in 1959 and 1960. McCarthy next went to Chicago, where he worked as an auto mechanic while writing his first novel, The Orchard Keeper, published in 1965.

Outer Dark was published in1968, followed by Child of God in 1973. From 1974 to 1975, McCarthy worked on the screenplay for a PBS film called The Gardener's Son, which premiered in 1977.

In the late 1970s, McCarthy moved to Texas, and ...

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