March 30, 2012

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I bought this book sometime over the summer, probably because I had it confused somehow with On The Road by Jack Kerouac. Oops. I do things like that a lot. Oh well.

Anyway, the book’s premise is pretty simple: a father and son (always referred to as “the man” and “the boy,” never named) are wandering through a post-apocalyptic, burned out America. That’s about the best I can do without stealing from the blurb on the back: “Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there…It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, ‘each the other’s world entire,’ are sustained by love.”

I’m going to be honest here. I finished this book before the New Year and have been avoiding writing about it because I didn’t like it and frankly couldn’t think of anything to write about. The other night, I was talking to a friend about it and told her how I thought it was boring and totally not engaging, and she explained to me that it’s not about the plot—it’s about the love between the man and his son.

Okay, fine, I get that. Except that’s not why I read books. I read books because I like stories. I don’t want to read an exposé of the love between a father and a son. I’m not really into touchy-feely books like this. It’s just not my thing at all.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the writing style…no quotation marks, run-on sentences, really just not a lot of punctuation in general. I am a big fan of punctuation. As a linguistics major, a grammar nerd, a constant reader, and an amateur writer, punctuation is my friend. I may not always use it correctly (I find I’m particularly fond of dashes where they don’t necessarily belong), but at least when I write, it’s usually decently readable. (Readers, tell me if I’m wrong.) Now, The Road was not nearly as bad as some of Faulkner’s “stream of consciousness” BS, but it was still kind of off-putting to me. Rules exist for a reason. Throwing them out the window doesn’t make you “cool,” at least in my eyes. I suppose that was my frustration with e. e. cummings, thinking he was so awesome and special for not using punctuation. But anyway, I digress.

I didn’t really like this book. Like I said, I guess I just didn’t appreciate it for what it was. I’m more of a plot person, not a “let me read almost 300 pages about how much this guy and his son love each other” kind of person. This book was definitely not for me.

2 stars

This review was originally posted on my personal blog

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  1. This book has been reviewed on this site before (can't remember who by), if you'd like to look it up. I didn't love it, but I definitely saw the value in it. I found it an engrossing read, and understood that the lack of punctuation was a rather poetic statement about the loss of law and society in the setting. If you aren't a fan of dystopian fiction I can see why you wouldn't like it, but it surprises me that you didn't understand it or its value. BTW I once accidentally picked up Nicholas Sparks when I was looking for books by Nicholas Evans. I was really surprised to find myself in a gooey mess of sappy teenage romance. So you're not alone!

    1. I actually love dystopian fiction--but The Road to me was more dystopian...blah. The fun of dystopian fiction is knowing what happened to cause the dystopia in the first place and what's going on currently, something that The Road didn't explore at all. I'm more into action when it comes to the dystopian genre. It seems to me that this novel could have been set anywhere at any time and it would have been basically the same--the setting, in my opinion, had very little to do with what the book was actually about (i.e. the father's love for his son and vice versa). My beef with it was mostly that it wasn't a story, and I was looking for a story, which is why I didn't like it.

      Also, thanks for the link--I didn't realize it had been posted here before! I'm new, so my apologies :)

  2. Found it, here's the discussion we had about here on Book Nook.

  3. We like to see multiple reviews of the same book, it's nice to get varied perspectives. I agree with you about the lack of backstory, if you look at the comments on that thread you'll see that bothered me as well!

  4. In the light of your comments about punctuation, I wonder what the audio book will sound like. The reader will have to make decisions that will affect the meaning of the book. You are no doubt aware that Shakespeare was no good at punctuation and the interpretation of some of his plays depends on how you decide to punctuate them. There is a review of the audio book coming up on Elaine Charles' radio show, The Book Report. I look forward to hearing what the reader does with this. Listen to the review on


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