"The Road"

I can sum up “The Road,” by Cormac McCarthy, with two superlatives—it is one of the best books I have read, and one of the most depressing.

The story (such as it is) follows a man and his son as they travel through the southern United States 10 years after an unspecified apocalyptic event. The land is gray and charred, the air is filled with ash, and seemingly the only other folks around are roving bands of cannibals. The sparseness of McCarthy’s prose perfectly matches the setting of the book, so much so that it is hard to read too much of it in one sitting, lest one sink into depression, or at least start outfitting a bomb shelter with canned goods.

But in spite of the grim scenario, the story is ultimately uplifting, much more than I would have expected when I started reading it. I read this for my book group, and we spent much of the discussion talking about what we would do in a similar situation. Most of us agreed that we would want to end things ourselves rather than face the daily battle for survival, high risk of enslavement/being eaten, and no hope for the future. But one friend, the only member of our group with a child, said she would have done just as the father in the book did, and fight to keep herself and her daughter alive.

Another member of the group was so traumatized by the story that she stopped reading after 100 pages, but everyone else found the book impossible to put down. For me, it was especially enjoyable due to my lifelong obsession with disasters/post-apocalyptic events (probably not the healthiest obsession, but what can you do).

This is the fourth book I have read for this challenge.