One of my favorite books, by far, is Cormac McCarthy’s fictional novel The Road. Released in 2006 to immediate critical acclaim, the book came to my attention because of a reading test in my class. We were tasked with reading a passage from one of McCarthy’s previous novels, The Crossing. I was blown away by McCarthy’s omniscient, descriptive writing style that focuses on the environment of the plot as well as the character. After completing the assignment, I was curious to see what novels he was working on. At that time, he had already finished No Country for Old Men, which became the Academy Award winning film of 2006. I immediately knew this was a writer to keep an eye on.
As soon as The Road was released, I ordered it from Amazon and dipped into reading it. The book jacket synopsis hooked me immediately: “A father and his son walk alone through burned America.” The plot focuses on these two as they work their way to the coast, avoid gangs of cannibals, in search for any remnants of society in a post-apocalyptic world. This idea struck a chord with me because I love father and son relationships explored in media, seeing as they are great sources of tension and drama.
I knew that I would rank this book as a personal favorite upon finishing the final words, reflecting on all that had occurred. The last paragraph especially stood out as remarkable:
“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”
This definitive paragraph summates the entire meaning of the book. Man brought about the end of the world, leaving behind a gray, ashen, wasteland. The things that should have persisted, like flowing water and the simple beauty, yet complexity of a trout were taken away by our mistakes. And worse, they could never be made right again.
The event that caused the apocalypse is never described in the book, but it is implied that it is a meteor strike. However, many have claimed it represents a world brought to an end by man’s pollution and exploitation. Environmentalist George Monboit nominated McCarthy as one of the 50 people most likely to save the planet for his contribution in writing the novel, explaining that it depicts a world devoid of a biosphere. Besides its acclaim for environmental leanings, the book has also won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. Oprah has also placed the novel on her official book club list.
I would hope that one day I could write something as influential as this was to me. McCarthy’s sparse prose writing makes me envious of his ability in that he can describe so much with so little. Reading his books is an experience because they take you on emotional, deeply felt journeys, where the reader finds themselves in the pages of the book. I want to be able to harness that power and have it available for my readers.