When you read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, you find yourself asking a lot of questions. The main question is, What happened? An unnamed father and son make a pilgrimage in a world that’s been all but destroyed, and we want to know what caused it. It doesn’t seem like nuclear war is the answer, there’s never any discussion of radiation. Everything is covered in ashes. Whatever the cause, it’s a world with few people, and circumstances have caused many of those who survived into predators – or even cannibals. The father and son remind each other that they “carry the fire,” the spark of goodness in humanity.
For me, The Road is one of the three or four most memorable and haunting books I’ve ever read. It’s hard to imagine that a book can be simultaneously so difficult to face and yet keep the reader eager to find out what happens next. I read the book about a year ago, and the details are still vivid. That’s the impact it had on me.
The Road was made into a movie in 2009, and I’m sure it’s fine. But this, more than just about any story I can remember, lives in the mind. Letting one director’s vision be the visualization for the story is simply wrong. The Road won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2007, and the next year Entertainment Weekly called it the best book, fiction or nonfiction, of the last 25 years.