“The road” is the story of a father and son, survivors of an unnamed disaster that has left America a barren and desolate country. The sky is a gray blight and the earth is covered in ash; no wildlife has survived and nature can no longer sustain mankind, making each day a fight against imminent starvation. In these dire circumstances we follow the father and son as they walk from the icy north towards the ocean on a road plagued by cannibals, marauders, thieves and beggars.
This is one of the most depressing books I have ever read, all the more so because it is so harrowing that I kept thinking about it even when I wasn’t reading it. It shows us a post-apocalyptic world in which humanity has degenerated to a pre-civilization state in which each man is left to fend for himself and not even mankind’s indefatigable sense of hope seems to remain intact. What makes this bearable, however, is the tenderness and love displayed in the relationship between father and son. It is a truly remarkable feat, in my opinion, to write a book that is at once so shocking and tormented and yet so full of human relationships at their best. Thus, while I found this book incredibly oppressive, it was, ironically enough, at the same time also uplifting and ultimately redeeming in a funny sort of way.
Very unlike me, I also felt an urge to interpret the symbolism of “The road” as I was reading it. I read into this book a post-9/11 warning by the author of the dangers of man-made disasters such as global warming, terrorism and nuclear war. Another interesting angle is that of the father and son as “the last good people” as they repeatedly refer to themselves as the “carriers of the fire”; the son at times seems almost like a Messiah whose destiny it may be to save the earth.