I had to read this book for my Contemporary Literature module at University and I’m so glad that this was on the reading list because it’s definitely gained a spot on my list of favourite post-apocalyptic novels of all time! The way it’s written is really unique and I was worried that it would stop me from enjoying the novel but instead, it enhanced it.
A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is grey. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.
Many call this book beautiful, not because of its twisted post-apocalyptic setting but between the heartbreaking and strong relationship between the man and his son. Even though the dialogue and emotion are limited, we as the reader are able to clearly see how much the father loves his son and how he would do anything for him. To be so desperate, in every way and at all times, and yet to survive and at times thrive, to persevere through terrible events of unbelievable horror will strike feelings of great, sad compassion in even the most tempered soul.
The young son was especially well done and was most certainly the most complicated character in the book. McCarthy presents him as a sort of supernatural being (Christ figure?), of only the best sort, full of goodness, a thing not of the world in which he finds himself. He is effortlessly drawn down the path of the righteous throughout the book as if he is God’s right-hand man. The reward appears, at least superficially, to be key moments of luck. The father, on the other hand, makes the reader constantly decide if he’s a good guy or a bad guy with his decisions as well as making the reader think of what they’d do in that situation.
Overall, this is a brilliant novel which I would recommend that everyone read at least once in their lifetime because it is so dark, and haunting but at the same time beautiful in its writing and characters. Plus it won’t take you long as it only took me a train journey back to University to read!