Cormac McCarthy‘s The Road takes place in a post-apocalyptic America. The novel centers on a father and son who, realizing they can’t survive another winter, start moving through the southeast towards the coast, trudging through snow and ash with their belongings in a scavenged shopping cart. Where they leave from, where exactly they are going, and what they hope to find are never made completely clear, just as the cause of society’s downfall is unexplained. But the beauty of the story is in everyday purpose they find in each other despite the struggle. There are a few tense moments avoiding bands of thieves and cannibals or other desperate nomads, but most of the book is a catalog of daily trials and conversations, simply and lovingly told.
McCarthy’s language is surprisingly simple and repetitive. It often called to mind a bit of the last stanza of “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird“:
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
Like Wallace Stevens’ poetry, McCarthy’s book has something of music in it. At times, since the book has no chapters or divisions larger than a few paragraphs, it reads like a very long unbroken poem or chant or something you might read aloud. McCarthy occasionally disrupts this flow with some whiz-bang vocabulary (e.g. gryke, chary, kerf), but for the most part it’s just really wonderful.