The Road Online by Cormac McCarthy
Click Here to Download the Book A searing, post apocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece. 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.
Reviews I'd been saving this book for a long time. As anyone paying a cursory glance to my reading list can tell, I'm somewhat obsessed with apocalyptic/dystopian fiction. I kept hearing that this one was very, very good, and so I kept waiting for a time when I reallyneeded a very, very good book. This fall has been both a wonderful and a very difficult one for me, but the difficult aspects, plus the grey and rainy Seattle autumn, made me really crave something dark and lonely, but also triumphant. The Road fit the bill, and then some. Oh my god, was this an incredible book. The plot is simple, with little elaboration. A nameless father & son (the boy's age isn't given, but he seems about nine or ten years old), trek slowly across the country in a nuclear winter, a decade after the end of the world, looking for food, safety, community, survival. It's a dark and horrible journey, one soul-crushing calamity after another, as the pair struggle to stay warm, to find food, to escape gangs of murderers and cannibals. Every page is full of horrors, so terrible that I kept wanting to put the book down for good. I couldn't handle all of these awful things happening to these achingly relatable characters. But, much as I might be tempted to, this book was un-put-downable. One of the reviewers quoted on the jacket says that what keeps you reading is the sense that only by sticking with them, only by continuing to read, can you assure yourself that the man and boy will make it through to the next page. If you put the book down, you're abandoning them to face their trials alone. If you put it down, they're as good as dead. But at the same time, it's not an unpleasant reading experience. What redeems and offsets all of the horrors is the bond between the father and son. Their deep-rooted love for each other and will to survive is incredibly powerful, incredibly moving. That even in the midst of a dying and unrecognizable world, there can be such love and determination to endure, turns the book's message from one of despair to one of hope. It's a constant struggle between the very worst and the very best in humanity, and somehow, the good always seems to outweigh the bad, always seems to justify continuing to fight on despite increasingly hopeless conditions. This book is horrible and wonderful. This book is amazing.
The Road, Cormac McCarthy's new novel, is both a departure and a coming home. Strictly speaking, The Road is a novella, its slim frame inflated by frequent section breaks (a McCarthy first), as if the book itself is pausing
for breath. Absent are the author's trademark paragraph-length sentences. Absent are masterful descriptions of men at work â€” on horseback, by riverboat, always moving â€” that only Melville can equal. But also missing is the coldness of the McCarthy narrator, who can sound like he's dictating from miles above. What we find in The Road is a totally unexpected tenderness, an emotional current that brightens this horrifying vision of postapocalyptic America. The Road takes place several years after a global catastrophe. The nature of the event is only hinted at, but several allusions indicate it was nuclear. In the aftermath, almost everything burned. Ash blots out the sun. Animals are just a memory. Shoes are almost as important as food. Everything not burned is grey or opaque. Through this devastation walk a man and his young son. They are walking south to the sea, as much for something to hope for as for the promise of warmer weather. Along the way they are beset by freezing weather and starless nights, not to mention death squads, the cannibalistic road agents who patrol the highways. What elevates this tale of survival to an instant classic is the subtle evolution of the father's relationship to his son. Initially, the father's perseverance seems steadfast and morally sound. (Many, including the boy's mother, committed suicide.) But the pressure of caring for and protecting the boy warps the father's ability to see goodness in others. To the father, everyone is an enemy. To the boy, who radiates kindness and compassion, people are defined in this dying world by their treatment of others, making the boy a living rebuke of his father. Increasingly desperate, the father makes a series of terrible decisions. What we witness is a slow transfer of moral authority in one of the harshest environments ever evoked in literature. Leave it to McCarthy to explore love in what is essentially hell on earth. The novel bears more than a passing resemblance to Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, to which The Road might be called a darker cousin. Both books, arriving late in the authors' careers, are relatively brief but flawlessly executed. Both achieve the allegorical quality of a fable by using mythic structures to breathtaking effect. Although short, both books are fuller expressions of the author's genius than the longer, more elaborate works that preceded them. I don't think it's a stretch to say that like The Old Man and the Sea, The Road will be judged a separate and intact masterpiece, while at the same time a perfect extension of an enduring literary legacy.
The Road is a great read because it's a life experience. Obviously I have not experienced a vicious postapocalyptic world alone with my beloved son, but having read The Road I still get the experience points. Thanks to McCarthy I actually feel like I have, bodily, been there. Reading The Road you feel viscerally the plight, the grinding fear and the impossibly fragile hope, of a man and his young child stuck in hell. The Road grabbed me, wrung me out like a wet rag, and then left me there with tears on the floor. It re-awakened dulled senses and brought me to consider previously unthought ideas. The Road, for all its horror, is simply a gift.
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