Monday, June 25, 2007

The Road

When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. His hand rose and fell softly with each precious breath.

The Road is a heart-wrenching post-apocalypse story of an unnamed father and his young son. For this work, Cormac McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2007. It was also selected by Oprah for her book club.

At this juncture, I would like to quote Daily Express: "A daunting, unsettling book that ideally should be read at one sitting, as long as you are prepared to bear the brunt of its full impact. [...]" And in one sitting I did finish the book. I'm still feeling its impact: haunting, gripping, sad. It makes me wonder if the world would really, one day, come to this devastating end. And when it does, will I have the will power to survive just like this father-and-son pair? How far will I go and to what extreme, to ensure survival?

The journey on the road is an extremely harsh one. For many years, maybe 7 maybe more, they kept traveling towards the south; always hiding, avoiding contact with other desperate survivors for fear they would be killed. They owned only a grocery cart that carried all their possession and whatever they could scavenge. On the brink of starvation, they survived on old canned food, dried apples, seeds, mushrooms, water in the ditch – anything that they could feed on. Everything has been wiped out to ashes. Dead trees, ash-covered snow and rain, dead bodies shriveled like leather, no food, no sign of living beings except for the few who were still surviving and took to cannibalism in order to live. A charred headless baby was found stuck to a skewer. That is how desperate the very few survivors were. It is only a matter of time before death becomes you. McCarthy really drives home the point on utter devastation of life completely wiped out. There are some reflective moments when the father thought about the days when the skies were still blue and the stuff he used to do when he was young. All is gone. Is there any hope?

Throughout the book, you could feel the father's love for his son. Every dialogue he had with his young son reeks with concern, pain and love. Like this one, when he needed to go check out one of the old burnt down houses to look for food or things they could use:

Take me with you, the boy said. He looked as if he was going to cry.
No. I want you to stay here.
Please, papa.
Stop it. I want you to do what I say. Take the gun.
I dont want the gun.
I didnt ask you if you wanted it. Take it.

I hope the world we lived in will not end like this. I hope our leaders will read this and be cautioned.