four-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
25-Nov-Dec-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-The RoadIn a postapocalyptic America, an unnamed man and his sickly young son, among the few survivors of a devastating holocaust, traverse a "barren, silent, godless" wasteland devoid of life and cloaked by gray ash. As winter approaches and they head south to the sea, they face unnamed horrors: memories of a previous life; starvation; frightening beasts; "blood cults"; barbarous gangs of cannibals; an old house surrounded by dead bodies. While the man convinces his son they are two of the "good guys," survival necessitates the compromising of morality. Despite this bleakness—the man saves his last two bullets for himself and his son—their love for each other rekindles a small glimpse of hope in humanity.
Knopf. 256 pages. $24. ISBN: 0330447556

Texas Monthly 5 of 5 Stars
"Yes, The Road is speculative fiction—pure genre stuff—and postapocalyptic scenarios are well-trod ground. But there is nothing pedestrian about its execution or effect. … This is a work that will invite superlatives—and ‘masterpiece’ is not too strong a word." Mike Shea

Entertainment Weekly 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Cormac McCarthy discovered his voice decades ago, but maybe only now, with his devastating 10th novel, has he found the landscape perfectly matched to his cosmically bleak vision. … [The Road is a] masterpiece." Jennifer Reese

Hartford Courant 4.5 of 5 Stars
"McCarthy doles out horrors every 20 pages or so—burned corpses half-mired in asphalt, a headless baby roasting on a campfire spit. All this is rendered in an ultra-literary style, one that is McCarthy’s trademark—sometimes as simple and clear as Hemingway, other times as ornate and prolix as Faulkner." Dan Pope

Los Angeles Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"One of the few tokens of hope The Road offers is that although the catastrophe that scorched the earth also burned away people’s names, identity is fireproof. … One of McCarthy’s best novels, probably his most moving and perhaps his most personal, The Road would be the ideal coda to a body of work that now spans 10 books over 40 years." Steve Erickson

New York Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"The Road would be pure misery if not for its stunning, savage beauty. This is an exquisitely bleak incantation—pure poetic brimstone. Mr. McCarthy has summoned his fiercest visions to invoke the devastation." Janet Maslin

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"[McCarthy’s] harrowing new novel, The Road, takes place during an unspecified nuclear winter in a barren Southwest bereft of almost everything that has characterized Mr. McCarthy’s previous tales: horses, ranch-house culture, woodlore, the influence of Mexico. … What’s left, besides the barest flicker of human community, is Mr. McCarthy’s astonishing, pared-away language, the poetry of stones and cold sunsets." Jerome Weeks

Houston Chronicle 3 of 5 Stars
"But for a parable to succeed, it needs to have some clear point or message. The Road has neither, other than to say that after an earth-destroying event, things will go hard for the survivors." Earl L. Dachslager

Critical Summary

A few critics claim that Cormac McCarthy appears to have been moving toward a final reckoning since Blood Meridian (1985), and Judgment Day has finally arrived. The Road, one of the best efforts to date from one of America’s finest novelists, works both as a cautionary tale and as an exploration of pure physical and psychological devastation. McCarthy, heralded for his spare, poetic language and bucking of standard English prose, offers even more brutal, more powerful imagery here, which somehow produces a nihilistic, desolate beauty. Only the Houston Chronicle faulted McCarthy for failing to deliver a clear message, but even its reviewer conceded that McCarthy "nevertheless remains one of our great storytellers, a master of suspense and narrative power."