Some books are written to make you think. Others provoke you into spontaneous laughter. The occasional story will grab you by the lapels, throw you headlong through the chapters until you emerge on the other side, out of breath and wondering where the last day of your life has just gone. Only one book has reduced me to tears twice, the second time even when I knew what was coming.
The Road, Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic magnum opus, is a slender volume that tells a starkly simple story: Winter is coming [Ed: not like that] and a father and his son have to cross a barren, deadly swathe of what were once state lines, highways, and mountain passes to reach the coastline, where perhaps it is warm and where they might be able to survive a little longer.
The dark manner in which the tale is told – terse conversation, brutal descriptions and, above all, silence – is exacerbated by the introspective insight into the father’s mind as he remembers a life before the world shrivelled up and died. The fruitless march south yields nothing but disappointment and fear, as the father seeks to protect a son who is slowly waking up to the reality of a world without hope.
While it is not without its beautiful moments, proving that such tender sentiments lie even within the darkest moments of humanity, it is not for those looking for a spot of light reading. As a bleak, uncompromising look at a human race pushed to its breaking point, it is potentially the best example that exists in modern literature.