Monday, June 16, 2008

Literature Review

I finished Cormac McCarthy's The Road on the subway on the way home today. Although it only took me a couple of days to read it, it was really painful. It's one of the saddest, most hopeless stories I've ever read.

There's been some awful catastrophe that has burned everything to the ground. All plants are dead, all animals are dead. The vast majority of people are dead, and the only ones left are roaming the countryside in bands of cannibals.

A few years after this catastrophe is when this story takes place. A man, known only as Papa, and his young son, who remains nameless, are traveling southwards on a road through a desolate landscape covered in ash and grey snow. They don't know what they'll find when they reach the coast. Always hungry, they search abandoned buildings for food at the risk of getting caught by "the bad guys" and killed to be eaten. The only food that exists does so in canned form. All the water is full of ash and soot, a slow moving sludge.

While reading this book, it becomes quickly apparent that there is no happy ending in sight. The reader realizes that the father is dying, and the young boy will soon be on his own in this hostile landscape, which, since he was born after the catastrophe, is the only world he knows. Nevertheless, the boy shows remarkable empathy and caution.

Yes, I'd recommend this book. It was fabulous. But not as a pick-me-up. If you're clinically depressed, make sure you're current on your medications before venturing into this story.