Oprah's Book Club Ain't So Bad

This month I joined millions of Americans in reading Oprah's newest book selection The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I'm usually not a huge follower of Oprah's book club, but I have admired her choices in the past (especially when she went on that Great Works kick). I'm also not a very big follower of Cormac McCarthy, but I've heard in my English classes that he is one of the best living writers in America.

The Road is set in a post-apocalyptic America that has been decimated by some natural disaster or atomic war. (McCarthy never defines what actually happened.) In this future America the sky is always gray and the landscape filled with dust. There are no trees or animals. Nothing lives except for a handful of human survivors, many of whom have turned to cannibalism.

The story follows a father and his son as they walk to the south---to the sea---to escape the winter's cold. They have very few material possessions: cans of food they found in long-abandoned homes, blankets to keep them warm at night, a small bottle of gasoline to fuel their small lighter, and a shopping cart to carry it all. But their most valuable possession is one another---for "each is the other world's entire."

As I read
The Road, McCarthy's simple prose pulled me into this dark gray world of some near future. I could see the barren land before me and I could feel the cold of the bitter nights. And I felt the desperation of the father as he cooked the last can of food for him and his son. Where could we get more? How would we survive? The sun shone brightly outside my apartment but inside I felt cold and sad.

Yet McCarthy offers a bit of light in the story and this light rests in the boy. Despite his horrible surroundings, the boy is infinitely innocent and infinitely good. When the two pass an old man on the road, the boy begs his father to give the man some of their food. When the father catches a thief who stole of their possessions, the boy pleads for the thief's life. Perhaps the boy is naive but his kindness is so surprising in a world that no longer knows good.

A fantastic book. Very beautiful writing, very powerful characters, a very interesting way of organization (the book has no chapters; it's just composed of short paragraphs). I would highly recommend it.