If I’d known Cormac McCarthy’s The Road had won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007, I might not have picked it up. So many books that have won the award just bore my underpowered literary sensibilities to death. Luckily, I’d listened to McCarthy’s All The Pretty Horses a few years ago and enjoyed it. So when I saw the audio book, performed by Tom Stechschulte, in the library I checked it out. I’m so glad I did.
The story is set in the Eastern US (although you don’t learn that into well into the book, and then only by one reference to them traveling through “the Piedmont”) years after a holocaust (meteor, nuclear, a caldera–it’s not ever really confirmed) and the resulting choas that turns America in a bleak place of ash and death. A father and son travel a mostly deserted road south to warmer weather, pushing a grocery cart with their few belongings. The father’s sick; he might be dying. And if he dies, we know the boy will die too because there’s nothing to eat but tins of what they can scavenge from houses that were ransacked and abandoned years before. And because others who survived have turned to hunting and eating people.
This is an incredible story about the relationship between this father and son and the dangers they face. McCarthy tells the story in plain detail. In fact, his understatement and attention to detail in this terrible landscape make it all the more powerful. Stechschulte’s reading is perfect.
The film is due out in 2009 and features Viggo Mortensen. But I wouldn’t wait for the movie if I were you. I’d get the book now. Or the recording. I couldn’t put this tale down. I’m betting you won’t be able to either.