For the first in a very long time I’ve read a book so moving I found myself thinking about it within hours after I closed the covers. Each time tears would form, heart would pulse with a phantom pain and still… I wouldn’t change a damn thing about it. This is not a happy book, certainly not a fun one either, but it’s something I hope many people endeavor to read nonetheless.
Cormac McCarthy spins a tale about a father and son in a post-apocalyptic US (at least one can assume it’s the US- it’s never really specified) traveling South in search of warmth. It’s a world of nuclear winter: trees and vegetation are dead and surviving humans are few and far between. Cut-throats are made in such a climate when desperation is come to by many in the bitter fight against starvation. The good people are those like the nameless father and son we follow; the bad are those whom will kill others then not let the carcass go to waste. In this world the bad are not those for whom sympathy is devoid it’s just the need to cheer on, to root for the two we follow is so great it would be a misapplication of emotion to lay it upon anyone else or anything else.
The layout of the book contains no chapters, oft times long paragraphs and no dialogue markings. Sentences are often short, commas are so sparse they appear to be on the endangered species list. Everything written matters. The absence of words or punctuation we’ve come to expect and rely upon also matters.
No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. the hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. their birth in grief and ashes. So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you.
I have spoken before in violent opposition to short abrupt listing sentences but the way McCarthy does it (as noted in the above sample) is brilliant. The back story is carefully woven in and serves to illustrate the relationship of father and son, the whereabouts of the mother, and little bits here and there of how long it took to get where they were. Just about everything is alluded to, never finite dates or times for how could there be? The characters have no sense of it- only day by day. But McCarthy delivers a solid punch to the solar plexus when he gets concise, finite. The truth being communicated is inescapable. The emotions are rich, haunting, brutal and lovely.
Many books have been touted as “the best book of the decade” by fellow bookworms and I have been pleased to see so many have taken to be champions of this book in those conversations. So often there have been books published which can not possibly live up to the hype nor are necessarily even well-written. This book I had heard very little about previous to picking it up (yes, I know about the movie- Viggo ALWAYS captures my attention) and am so incredibly grateful I did. I hope you will endeavor to do the same. Despite its darkness there is a tremendous beauty and reverence of humanity communicated through these pages which, in my opinion, overshadows the unflinching counterpoint McCarthy also gives.