by Cormac McCarthy
In The Road, a man and his son wander through a post-apocalyptic America, searching out food and shelter, trying to avoid the “bad guys” who also roam the wastes. While the story is about survival in the most harrowing of scenarios, the focus is on the growing relationship between our two main characters. The boy gives his father a reason to keep going, something to live for; he does everything he can to not only keep his son safe, but to protect his innocence as well. (In a testimony to McCarthy’s superb storytelling, we’re only afforded brief glances in the absolute worst of the terrible things going on around the two, in the same way the father shields his son from them. So, we aren’t held watching, but we’re left to our imaginations, much like the boy, who still gets affected despite his father’s heroic efforts.) In turn, the boy helps his father maintain that shred of humanity that threatens to escape from him in this harsh world in which they find themselves.
The most interesting thing I gleaned from The Road was not necessarily the author’s great storytelling, which is strong, but his incredible measure of subtlety. I initially had a hard time getting into the narrative, finding the fragmented sentences and occasionally odd word-usage quite jarring, but I eventually grew accustomed to all this. I found not only that this helped with pacing and building atmosphere, but it also served to divert from McCarthy’s intentions. If you, like me, originally put down the book and seriously wondered why this, of all things, would be deserving of the Pulitzer, I strongly urge you to pick it back up and really, thoughtfully, reflect on it; I’m confident you’ll see something touching and masterfully written.