Life on 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.

When I decided to read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I had no idea I was going to be exploring the landscape of my own soul.

Before I continue, rest assured I’m not going to spoil the book for you. I don’t do that. The quotes I use are from the first few pages. Also, be warned that there’s a movie coming soon, so if you’re like me and prefer to get to a book before the movie comes along and plants all the images in your head, you should read this soon if you’re so inclined.

The novel tells the story of a man and his son, wandering an ashen post-apocalyptic America, scratching to survive. It is not an adventure story, not in the sense that an adventure story is meant to excite the reader, to offer escape. It is not Mad Max.

What it is, is a harrowing vision of living even when there seems to be no reason to live. Living in a world that no longer gives sustenance, a world without sunlight, a world that breaks the body and the heart and the soul every minute of every hour of every day.

The man takes his son onward through this barren, wasted world, mostly alone. Their moments of victory are petty and rare, a dusty sackful of mummified apples, a cup of fresh water, a warm blanket. They live lives without hope or comfort. They yearn for death. But they keep going.

Why?

Then he just sat there holding the binoculars and watching the ashen daylight congeal over the land. He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.

The boy. The man stays alive for his son. His son stays alive because his father stays alive for him. They’re in Hell. They have no hope. They have each other. It’s stark and real and painful, in no way sentimental. It’s true.

He watched the boy and he looked out through the trees toward the road. This was not a safe place. They could be seen from the road now it was day. The boy turned in the blankets. Then he opened his eyes. Hi, Papa, he said.

I’m right here.

I know.

This is my life.

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