The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a story set in a postapocalyptic world where everything has burned to ash. It follows an unnamed man and son who travel together on a road south toward the coast. They believe at the end, they’ll find warmth and relief. On their journey, they push along a shopping cart and hide from other people on the road. They have many encounters with other survivors, the first of which a man tries taking the son, but the father kills him. They meet other people: an old man who they give some cans of food, a house with a basement filled with people that were going to be eaten, a baby charred on a spit roast, a man who stole all their stuff, so they took all the thief’s clothes from him. Though, once they get to the coast, it ends up being like everything else: desolate. They continue into a town where the father is shot with an arrow and eventually dies from the wound. Finally, the son is picked up by another man who is assumed to be in good faith.
McCarthy is a master in how smoothly the moments and narrative flow, and what really held the story together was the bond of the father and son. Their conversations are little more than a few words each, but what felt so powerful was the way they were in context. For example, in one moment, they scavenge and find a Coca Cola, and the father gives it to the son. However, the son prods the father to drink some as well, “You have some, Papa./I want you to drink it./You have some./He took the can and sipped it and handed it back. You drink it, he said. Let’s just sit here.” Their relationship is encapsulated when McCarthy writes, “Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.” Which felt so true throughout the interactions: the way the son holds the father back from entering buildings and taking risks and how the father takes care of the son when he has a fever. The novel is about how two people can survive in a broken world and how that brokenness forces them to grow closer.
Final Rating: 4.5/5
Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.