Although I found The Road by Cormac McCarthy absolutely stunning, I hesitate to recommend it for book clubs. I highly, highly recommend it for individuals, and I would even like to discuss it with someone else who has read it, but paradoxically, I cannot suggest you select it for your reading group because…
Well, I’m not sure exactly why. After all, Oprah selected it for her book club, and who am I to argue with Oprah? Let’s just say that I think there are other novels better suited for book group reading, others that I would suggest instead of this one. I am currently reading another novel by Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses, so I’ll let you know if you should choose that one for your group. Let me finish it and I’ll get back to you.
The Road is a quick read, but one that lingers long after you finish it. It’s the story of a man and his son who are traveling down a road in what seems to be a post-apocalyptic America. We don’t know what has caused the destruction, but the devastation is so intense and so pervasive, every moment for the duo is a struggle to survive, and every additional day of survival is a questionable achievement in itself. After all, to live like this, wouldn’t the alternative be better?
Two things pulled me along through the novel (in fact, I couldn’t put the book down): one was McCarthy’s poetic prose. For a long time I had avoided him because I thought he was too grim and violent, but I am so glad that I overcame my squeamishness. His writing should not be missed. (Has anyone ever compared him to Hemingway?)
The relationship between the son and his father was the other thing that captivated me. Whatever monumentally destructive event occurred, it took place before the boy was born, so his entire world has been constructed by his father. (The mother has, well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.) The two are searching for other “good guys” but apparently the bad guys, and they are really bad, are more numerous. Can you imagine living in a world where every single movement of every single day has the stress of life or death importance upon it? McCarthy helps you imagine it, and for me, just doing that–imagining living that way–was a seriously intense reading experience.
Yes, this novel is bleak, but it’s also filled with hope. It’s grim, but it’s also filled with beauty. Yes, it shows the absolute worst of mankind–no doubt. But there is something to counter that, and I’ll let you find out for yourself what it is. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I know that I am accused of liking dark literature, but I feel confident recommending this book to anyone–it’s just that good.