I know a LOT of people who have read The Road and were thoroughly traumatized by it. Several advised me to wait and read it when it was sunny outside, so I wouldn’t be depressed afterwards. I did follow that advice, but I also read two McCarthy books that did not coincide with sunshine. And, frankly, I found Blood Meridian to be such a bloodbath that The Road, as bleak as it is, cannot even compare. I’ve concluded that The Road is the most traumatizing if you were a Cormac McCarthy virgin before you read it. And knowing what I know now about his oeuvre, I can only say to you, dear reader:
All joking aside, The Road definitely is an intense read. It covers the journey of a man and his son from an unnamed starting point to an unidentified destination. The world has ended, and they are scrounging to survive. We don’t know why the earth is burned, though there are allusions to a cholera outbreak. We only know that the crash began right before the boy was born, but we’re not entirely sure how old he is now. They travel lightly and are aiming to stay away from roaming packs of bandits who will kill them–and worse. Along the way, they struggle with their will to survive but discover greater reserves in their love for each other.
This was my fourth McCarthy novel, and it was interesting to read on the heels of All the Pretty Horses, which has a completely different setting and tone. The Road is very unlike the other McCarthy novels that I’ve read, and I think the vagueness of the setting and the thrust of the theme set this apart from the others. It was an interesting novel about the collapse of society, and while I still like Station Eleven better, I think that McCarthy does an amazing job of pulling us out of the past and future and bringing us to the moment: the raw present without any hope or any objective. It’s also very unflinching in its gaze at the human condition–we are capable of incredible darkness and incredible love, and sometimes both these capacities are present simultaneously.
That said, there are so many horrifying aspects of human nature that McCarthy does not shy from in all his novels that I was literally *waiting* for something to happen. Waiting. And then, it totally did. When [SPOILER SPOILER HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILER] the man and his son encountered the headless cooked baby, I literally said out loud, “Oh, of course. Why wouldn’t this be in a Cormac McCarthy novel?” I also texted my sister, “#classicmccarthy.”
That’s literally the twisted power that Cormac McCarthy has over you–he messes with your mind and inures you to the CRAZY things that happen in his novels. Apparently, I am a masochist, because I am eager to keep on reading–I hear bad things happen to animals in The Crossing and Child of God will put hair on your chest (according to my sister). I can hardly wait.