A short review of Cormac McCarthy’s recent book
Eric’s call for some good nature books has motivated me to do a short book review. I’m not sure the one I’ve chosen is a good book, or that I would recommend reading it. And it does not have a whole hell of a lot to do with nature writing. Nevertheless.
I don’t usually read fiction (preferring to learn something while at leisure). My wife reads a lot of it and recently finished a book from Oprah’s book club called The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. She insisted I would like it, so I invested a couple of hours to read it. This is a book you do not want children to read.
It is one of the darkest, most depressing post-apocalypse stories I have ever read. The style is interesting — the author leaves out things like chapters, and details like names, ages, places, and times. This lets the reader fill in the blanks with their imagination.
Something terrible has happened to our planet (or maybe it is some other planet). It could have been a meteor impact or nuclear war, or possibly a global warming tipping point. Almost all life has been destroyed: plants, animals, and most people. I’m guessing from the clues that whatever the event, it happened roughly a decade or so before the story begins. That is the beauty of this book — everyone will have a different take on it.
The story is about a father and his young son. We don’t know how old either is. They are struggling to survive in some place where there is virtually nothing to eat except dwindling preserved food stocks in abandoned buildings … and other people. I get nauseated just thinking about it. I like to read archeology articles and know that pockets of humanity have been trapped in just this scenario countless times through history — and that is why this story had such an impact on me. It is, in my mind, a fictional account of a real-life Ethiopian parent with child in tow, trying to walk out of a famine through a bleak, lifeless landscape.
The story documents their journey down a highway toward a coast. The father has concluded that they will not survive another winter where they are, and is taking a last-ditch gamble that there may be something better somewhere else. I won’t say that all ends well, or that it does not. That will be for you to determine.