Tuesday, December 19

The Road

PatryFrancis wrote an interesting post about Cormac McCarthy's newest book, The Road. I stumbled on her blog post when I was looking around at all the many blogs that have used my photos from flickr (it's really cool that I can find websites that post my photos -- keep an eye on how the images are being used by others ...) Anyway, I was drawn in to her post because I have recently finished reading The Road. I ended up writing a monster of a comment about the book on Patry's blog. And I thought -- I should post it here, too. So here's the comment I wrote:

I just finished reading The Road. We had given it to my 25-year old son, Mickey, as a birthday gift -- something he requested, as he is an avid fan of C McCarthy's. Mickey finished the book quickly (as always) and brought it for me to read when he came home at Thanksgiving. He told me it was very very very sad (exactly his words) but that he thought it was worth reading. He also told me he didn't think I would like it, as in "Wow, this is such a good book!" but that I would probably think the book was a good book anyway. (if that makes any sense ...)

The Road was the saddest book I have ever, ever read. I read all the time. I actually don't mind sad. But this was extreme! Somebody else commented on Patry's post about how sad the book, No Country for Old Men was... well, The Road is definitely more sad than that one.

Others wrote about it being "scary" ... for me it wasn't scary. I just felt incredibly sad for the Earth, for humankind, for all the plants and birds and insects, fish, creatures ... though I know it was fiction, it is so close to what is plausible ...

McCarthy's way of writing dialog -- sparse, stark, succinct ... and his way of not naming his characters ... so that the 2 protagonists were "the boy" and "the man," makes it even sadder. So much more real. The way the primitive mind might think. (by that I mean, the deep human mind that lurks under our conscious mind) So much closer to what might really happen if we somehow destroyed the world, life, everything save for a few not-so-lucky souls.

I had a hard time sleeping each night when I would put the book down on my nightstand. My husband didn't want me telling him anything about the story. I tried to a few times, just to have someone to console me. He just fell asleep. Sometimes reading the story as it plods along unapologetically, trudging with the boy and the man along a half-hidden asphalt road through absolute 100% devastation ... sometimes I would be reading through tears. Tears running down my cheeks. And then, sobs. Sobs -- out loud. I mean it when I say, for me, The Road was the saddest book ever! It wasn't the kind of "sad" I've felt reading a book like "The Color Purple" or Wendell Berry's "Jayber Crow" where the story takes saddish turns now and then. The Road was thoroughly, deeply sad. When I finished The Road, I gave it to him. He put it on the bottom of his pile of books under the nightstand on his side of the bed. I know he won't read it.

And yet, the man and the boy, each the other's world entire, have such love -- that love sustains them along their forced journey through a bleak and ashy world. McCarthy conjures a vision of the worst that could happen to our world - through human fault -- and the best part of the human soul. There is 100% destruction of everything around them. Except for the tenderness between this father and this son.

That tenderness was, for me, the tiny flicker of hope in all the sadness, grief -- and anger -- I felt reading the book. The faith held between the man and the boy, that they were carrying the fire ... somehow carrying a seed of humanity's true essence -- in the face of the world's total destruction, that seed is hope.

Fire is an important part of the spiritual path I share with my husband. Maybe that's why the hope really sank in -- touched me deeply. Somehow this dark, dark tale made me glad to be alive, lucky for all the blessings and gifts we have -- now.

And for that reason, I would read the book again. And recommend it to anyone who knows they like Cormac McCarthy.
Here is a comprehensive NYT book review of The Road, with excerpts.