Cormac McCarthy’s The Road has been made especially well known and popular thanks to the superbly ported movie of the same name, but it was doing well long before that. Its won multiple awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2007), and brought the post-apocalypse to attention of serious literary critics. Unlike many of the books in our lists, The Road isn’t exactly sci-fi or horror. It’s a harrowing emotional journey, and though it’s set amongst dangers of the apocalypse and the savage survivors, it’s really the story of a father and son.
What’s McCarthy’s The Road all about
There’s little definitive evidence of what happened to the world, but civilisation has crumbled, an ashen cloud has descended and many of the survivors have turned barbaric – even cannibalistic. A father determines to take his son across America to the coast, believing he’ll find salvation there, and they encounter a variety of run-down survivors, seeing threats in everyone they meet. Along the way, the boy struggles through a few life lessons and survival tips from his dad that will, ultimately, make him a man.
Why’s The Road special
Cormac McCarthy has an unmistakably unique style of writing, combining often shocking and emotionally wrought scenes with candid, to-the-point prose that’s at once remarkably well constructed and easy to read. His novels seem to expose the darkness festering deep inside humanity, and The Road is no exception. It’s a blessing to see his literary skills turned to an ordinarily pulpy genre like post-apocalyptic fiction, giving the themes a much heavier emotional edge, and a really professional stylistic quality, than is ordinary in such stories.
Yet, above all, this is a simple story of a father guiding his child into manhood; it merely has an unforgettably miserable setting. It’s the sort of story that puts you right in the place of its unhappy victims, full of atmosphere and dread. It’s not a pleasant atmosphere, and it’s not a pleasant story, but it a marvel to read, and an impressive literary accomplishment to say the least. It will quite possibly depress you more than a book should rightfully be allowed, but if you can appreciate that as the achievement then you’ll revel in the experience.