This book… has so many layers. I don’t know how to begin to describe it.
I’ll start with feelings: I loved it and yet it terrified me. In each moment it reminded me of a world I could not survive — one without sunlight and pine trees and the sound of birds in the morning. McCarthy’s ability to drain the world of all color, to limit the mind to shades of gray as the eyes move from line to line… his writing style is far too effective for comfort.
That was, of course, the point.
The Road is as gray and non-changing a story as the world in which it is set. McCarthy describes a man and his son walking on a road, the road, toward warmth as winter is descending. Every so often something immense happens quickly then everything returns to normal — almost like a scream in the night without echo — and these are what make the story addicting in a sick way. People resorting to cannibalism… the man trying to hide rotten corpses from his son’s sight… torture and mutilation… this is a truly dystopian world. It is a world in which there truly is no hope. A specific conversation between the man and the boy puts this in perspective: they are talking about life. This life is the only which they boy has ever known… the man tells stories of the time before, yet the boy only half believes them. Finally the boy will not hear any more of the man’s stories because they are not true. The man stops, wondering. He asks why they aren’t true. The boy responds that this life is not good, like the lives of people in the stories. The man asks what it is, then; the boy responds, “okay.”
The dialogue within McCarthy’s tale is itself a huge aspect of the storytelling. There is little to no use of apostrophes in contractions or elsewhere. There are no quotation marks and capitalization within sentences is rare to nonexistent. It is stripped of anything unnecessary, just as their lives are. The paragraphs are short and descriptions barren yet somehow fully effective. McCarthy succeeded in creating a tone of despair and lack and also creating an entire world.
I would recommend this book because it moved me and because it is a warning. If you read it, though, perhaps try to read it quickly; McCarthy’s writing inevitably will pull you into his world until the very last page.