Review: ‘The Road’

the road

The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

  • Date finished: Jan. 15
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Year: 2006
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: Winter 2012-13
  • Grade: C
  • Thoughts upon finishing:

I’m still surprised that I gave this book a “C” grade, but I’m not going back on my assessment: I just didn’t like The Road as much as much I thought I would. There it is.

What’s strange about that (to me, at least) is that I thought I would love The Road. I’ve been looking forward to reading it for years now. I’ve always been a fan of post-apocalyptic, creepy stories and I knew that’s what I would be getting into with this book.

But then I started reading it and I realized: I couldn’t find anything to be excited about. Sure, the world depicted in The Road is pretty scary. And I’m dying to know it’s history. But that’s where we come to my two big beefs with The Road: there is a frustratingly small amount of back story and nothing really happens.

I know, I know. The point of The Road is not knowing why the world has been laid to waste. The mystery…yeah, yeah, I get it. But the reason I like post-apocalyptic novels is knowing why. I think novels such as these can be case studies in human behavior, and for that reason, I also like seeing how society attempts to reform itself. I like seeing how people learn to adapt in world that defies our preconditioning.

The Road had a little bit of that, but *whatever* happened, happened a long time ago. The boy doesn’t even remember the time before (he wasn’t born) and the man has no clue what happened. At the point we enter the story, everyone is just worried about being eaten by the other survivors. Everyone just hides from each other and we learn very little about this world besides the fact that it’s dissolved into chaos. That, to me, feels cheap. You got me halfway invested in the story, McCarthy, and then left me hanging when I needed more. That’s not artistry, it’s just lame.

Then there’s the whole fact that nothing happens. OK, I’ll give McCarthy a pass on this because I was pretty anxious while reading this — I was so worried that someone was going to kill the main characters! But (spoiler alert), nothing too terrible happens. The man and the boy spend most of their time being cold and hungry.

OK, I know — there’s the whole father/son relationship. In fact, with no background and no real action, it’s all we’re left with. I will admit to tearing up at the end, and their relationship was very sweet. Never have I read anything where this primordial relationship has been stripped to its very core, and we’re left awkwardly looking at these guys’ emotions. So, in that way, it wasn’t bad. I do understand why it’s lauded so highly.

But, I can’t help myself. It wasn’t what I expected. I wasn’t thrilled about it. I didn’t care too much while reading it. And I wanted more. It’s strange, sometimes, to come to the conclusion that maybe I don’t like or appreciate every single “important” book in the world. I try to understand as much as I can, and I try to avoid outright dislike. And I don’t dislike this book. But I didn’t like it and you know, I think that’s OK.

Thank goodness, though, that this was a library book.

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2 thoughts on “Review: ‘The Road’

  1. Pingback: More for the TBR pile | Paperback Fool

  2. Pingback: 2013: A Year in Reading | Paperback Fool

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