It has been way too long since I have taken some time and read some fiction. I've kind of gotten into a rut that didn't include that and every so often I would think about picking up any number of books that I've thought about reading, but somehow there I was, walking away from the store or shopping center with it completely slipping my mind. A couple of nights ago though, I did finally break past whatever mental block was working and picked up two books. One is a recent John Sanford novel and the other is "The Road", by Cormac McCarthy. Sanford writes good murder/mystery stuff with a local flavor that I have read for years. "The Road" I became aware of via Sheila O'Malley. I finished the latter book this afternoon.
This book has been around since 2006 and has received high praise from many quarters. I can now understand why. It is the story of a man and his boy struggling to survive in a bleak post-apocalyptic United States. They head south in search of warmer weather, traversing a land that is dead in every way except for the few remaining humans scrounging for any kind of food. And for some, that means any kind of food.
This is not your typical post-apocalyptic novel along the lines of The Stand or Lucifer's Hammer. The book is almost entirely focused on the father and son, though there are glimpses of the wife/mother from the past and ghosts of characters that occasionally appear and disappear through the ever grey rain. Mostly though, it is the dialogue between father and son as they make their way. Their struggles against the cold and hunger. Their triumphs when they can find food and warmth and survive another day.
The book switches back and forth between third person narrative and an unadorned style of presenting the dialogue that took a few pages to get comfortable with. Even then I lost the sense of who was saying what on more than one occasion, but I decided that was me losing my concentration and no fault of McCarthy's writing, so it was not annoying.
It is that simple dialogue, so skillfully presented, that makes this book so powerful. Love, trust, sadness, irritation, truths becoming plain to see, yet still unsaid. All are presented in a plain and matter of fact way that still pulls you deeply into the story. I have never read a book where a simple...
...conveys so much.
For some reason I expected to be a bit dismissive of this book and how the characters went about the task of survival and for the life of me I can't figure out why. There are things that the man does that I would probably do differently, but the story is not implausible and it did not take long for me to simply accept what was given and just go with that.
I highly recommend this book, but be prepared for a very emotional ride. I was surprised at the strong impact it had on me, and I don't think I'm getting that soft in my old age.
Now, on to something lighter. You know, cops, murder, that sort of thing.