⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑ (5/5 see book reviews)

Three sentence summary

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a story of a father and son walking on a road amid a post-apocalyptic landscape of blackened skies raining ash on the charred husks of the former vegetation.

Their walk is a pilgrimage to the coast, but you’re not sure what they’re hoping to find — any insight you have into the character’s motivations is found in quote-mark-less conversations between the father and son, simple concrete conversations like the kind you’d have with an eight-year-old.

The central questions are about morality and epistemology: how do you know if people are good and is eschewing cannibalism enough to call yourself moral in a time when hazmat-suit-clad hordes complete with retinue of concubines and catamites are a common sight.

Random thoughts

A lot of the book begs the question of how to carry on (and indeed why carry on) when the future is bleak and uncertain. A few answers are offered. A man’s love of his son may be the most straight-forward interpretation; however, I’ll admit that that answer hadn’t occurred to me during my reading, only while reading reviews after.

I viewed the narrative as a story about our obligations to each other. We’re obligated to “carry the fire” (the main character’s phrase that I took to mean “carrying on humanity”).

One passage I liked has to do with the creation of ritual as a means of creating meaning:

All of this like some ancient anointing. So be it. Evoke the forms. Where you’ve nothing else construct ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them.

– Cormac McCarthy, The Road

The language in The Road is stunning. Plain yet powerful. McCarthy wields the word “and” with such imagination and expertise it forced me to learn the term “Polysyndeton”. I spent a few minutes reveling in the joy of reading this sentence:

The snow fell nor did it cease to fall.

– Cormac McCarthy, The Road

While the vocabulary is plain, the sentences McCarthy assembles from its pieces are singular, I just loved the language in this book:

He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.

– Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Although, the lack of any punctuation at all can make reading some passages feel like reading text messages: a needless lack of punctuation.

Also, there may have been some pretty heavy Christ metaphor stuff right at the end (and probably throughout):

She would talk to him sometimes about God. He tried to talk to God but the best thing was to talk to his father and he did talk to him and he didnt forget. The woman said that was all right. She said that the breath of God was his breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time

– Cormac McCarthy, The Road


  • Title: The Road
  • Author: Cormac McCarthy
  • Pages: 287
  • Format: EBook
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN: 0307387895
  • Genre: Literature