Posted by: Sally Ingraham | February 27, 2010

The Road

The Roadby Cormac McCarthy

I read this book in nearly one sitting. It sucked me dry, and left me with an indescribable sense of stillness.

McCarthy’s vision of a burned and wasted country was frightening at times, and yet (and this came in stark contrast to certain aspects of Virginia Woolf’s view of things in The Waves) the tenderness and connectedness of the man and the boy, traveling with desperate determination down the road toward the sea, was astonishingly beautiful.

I read the book because we are playing the recently released movie adaptation at the theater where I work this weekend, and I intend to see it. I was warned by people who had read and liked it, as well as by a few who had wanted to slit their wrists after reading the book, that it was depressing beyond all words. I did not find this to be the case at all.

Certainly there are horrifying aspects to a post-apocalypse story where the survival of the main characters seems highly doubtful. I couldn’t help flinching at some points, but I was newly impressed with McCarthy’s unflinching examination of the very best and worst in human nature. The heros of his tale were so imperfect and real, and his landscape was sketched in such vibrant black and gray. It made me ache, made tears come to my eyes, but it didn’t depress me.

I felt a profound sense of release when I finished The Road, but it was an exquisite moment – a long sigh of wind across an empty plain.

This is brilliant writing. I can’t imagine how the movie will capture even half of the emotional impact, but I am still willing to see what it manages. I am reminded that I want to read more McCarthy, but there needs to be a wide space between my experiences of his books! For now, The Road is enough.


  1. I read this one a few years ago and had a similar reaction to you. Oddly, although the book is depressing, I felt there was a glimmer of hope at the end, like there was still the potential for something good to happen. I was moved by McCarthy’s writing and his vision, and thought it was a great book. I don’t think I’ll see the movie though as much of what is depicted in the book would likely be too graphic and extreme for me to watch on screen.

    • Yeah, I’m a litte terrified of seeing the movie. For some reason I still want to though…!

  2. I felt so much the same as you! I also didn’t think this depressing; though I tell you I bawled all throughout, from almost the first page to the last. It was heartbreaking and sad and painful, but it wasn’t depressing. I also don’t know if I’ll see the movie, like Steph. Don’t know how I can take it. This was such a beautiful book and I love love loved it.

    • I’m having trouble saying I loved it, since it is so tough, content-wise. But it’s true. I did love it!

  3. My husband absolutely loved the book but was disappointed by the movie. I gather that might have been a more widespread reactions since the movie came and went rather quickly!

    • That’s why I definitely wanted to read the book first – I didn’t want the movie to ruin it for me. We’ll see what I think…

  4. It’ll be interesting to read what you think of the film version, Sarah. I love Viggo Mortensen, but for some reason couldn’t or didn’t want to see the film version. It’s probably unfair to compare book to film. I also remembering trying to read through the tears–the love of the father for his son–and of course the horror. I agree with Steph that somehow the ending was hopeful.

    • That’s why I was blown away by the book – because somehow, with that ending, there is a sense of peace and optimisim.

  5. I read this a couple of years ago, and remember being blown away by how amazing this book was in so many respects: the writing, the story, the imagery, and the characters. The book didn’t depress me, per se, but it did have me scared and creeped out (a little bit more than most dystopian novels).

    Boy, I wouldn’t want to be there.

    • No indeed! It’s a terrible vision, but somehow McCarthy makes it strangely beautiful too.

  6. I had a similar experience as you describe with McCarthy’s Blood Meridian – not depressing due to the amazing prose and well-craftedness of the book in general, but definitely very uncomfortable (I’ve also heard Blood Meridian is his most violent novel). It was also missing the connectedness you discuss here – I’d be very curious to read more McCarthy, so thanks for the reminder!

    • I’ve been wanting to read more McCarthy ever since your Blood Meridian review! His books aren’t cozy, that’s for sure, but they’re amazing. I would be very interested to know what you think of The Road.

  7. Hi Sarah – I’m new to your blog and really liked this entry so I wanted to comment!
    I too read The Road recently, and thought it was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I feel like the story could have easily turned into any generic sci-fi post apocalyptic story were it not for McCarthy’s beautiful prose.
    Like your other commenters, I don’t think I’ll be seeing the movie either. I just don’t know that it could add anything more to the experience of reading it…

    • Thanks for stopping by! I too am wondering what the movie can add, beyond the different experience of mediem. From the trailer it seems like the movie has intensified the action, which worries me. We’ll see!

  8. […] – John Hillcoat – USA – 2009 I watched this movie a few days after I finished reading the book . This could have led to a particularly nit-picky viewing, but to my own surprise I was able to […]

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