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The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

Monday, 31 January, 2011

A book review, by Chantal Pierre-Packer

One thing I really enjoy is going into a library to see the numerous shelves full of books.  It is always a special occasion and it requires time to savour.  I need to be able to browse slowly, look, read the blurbs, read a few sentences and take in the whole experience of choosing a new book to read.  I like the smell of the books.  I like the feel of the pages and the sounds it makes as you flick the whole book through.  I like looking at the cover designs.  The books are full of stories, ready to take you to wherever your imagination will go.  People have taken the time to mine their imagination or their life and to share this all with us.  They create new worlds, delve into human emotion and tell us new things about the world and ourselves.

It is especially exciting when I find a book, which has such a compelling story and narrative that you just do not want to put it down.  I discovered such a wonderful book in ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy.

The Road tells the story of a man and his son.  They are in America and something awful has befallen the world and now it and everything in it is dying.  The man and the boy have survived but the world they are now existing in is cold, dark and dangerous.  They travel the road, trying to find food, clothes and all they need to stay alive.

Cormac McCarthy writes with such skill and his description of the landscape and everything around is what makes the book stand out.  The story is broken up into paragraphs on each page.  This makes it quite easy to read and gives it a different quality to usual novels.  It mirrors the condition of the man and the boy; fractured, uncertain and living by the second.  The sentences are simple and effective.  When dialogue between the father and son is given, it is in short sentences or a few words. The conversation is written so each person’s words are on a new line so you can tell who is speaking.  There is not the A said this and B said that.  It is refreshing.

“Papa?

Shh. Stay down.

I’m so scared.

Shh”

The simplistic way they talk shows how they now live and how much is left unsaid between them.

The father and son are referred to as ‘the man’ and ‘the boy’.  I think this may be for the reader to keep at a distance; do not get attached, their lives are uncertain.  However, this draws you in even more.  You do not focus on who they were but who they have become and the struggle they face.  Names are no longer used in their world.  The past has been almost forgotten and the only drive now is living in the hope and love of God and trying to stay alive.  There are good people and bad people.  The man and boy are the good guys.  They have encountered various pain and suffering and find new horrors along their journey.  They always have their hope however and their love for one another which is admirable.

The story moves at a steady pace, never too fast.  You feel as though you are taking the journey with them.  You walk when they walk and rest when they rest.  Time passes and the changes within their bodies and in the world around them is described in detail.  You can almost imagine the smells, the weather and the level of the light that is depicted.

The things we take for granted, such as warmth and being able to eat, are taken and thrown at you as you read how they fight daily for survival.  It makes you think of those in the world now who are in the same situation.  The love they have for each other is so strong and the man has taught his son well.  Every day brings new challenges.

I read this book as often as I could; on transport, anywhere, a quick five minutes here or there.  It was thoroughly enjoyable to read.  There are some unpleasant moments but Cormac McCarthy deals with it all delicately and tastefully.  I recommend this book to anyone who wants to remember the love that is all around us.  The hope we all need to keep in our hearts.  We must never give up and stay determined and driven.  Families are important.  Life is important.  We can all make a positive difference in life.  We just need to believe in ourselves and be around those that will encourage us too.  Go out and really live life.  It is such a blessing.

(c) Chantal Pierre-Packer, January 2011

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