Story Spotlight: The Road – Cormac McCarthy

I’m not sure if there was anything about The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, that I didn’t like. But in saying that, I wonder if I’m just giving in to the sort of thinking that says, “Everyone likes him, so he must be a good author.” But then I think about the story itself, and I think, “To hell with what everyone else thinks.”

To start, this story is visceral and vivid. For an author to accomplish that so thoroughly and on such a deep level is commendable. The entire novel, from start to finish, made me feel the characters. It made me feel everything they were going through. All of this in spite of fairly basic descriptions. In spite of rather simple bits of dialogue. I love that style. I love reading it, and I love writing it.

Secondly, this story uses suspense and terror, but does it so adroitly that I never felt like it was bludgeoning me over the head. Horror stories usually fail in this area. They’re often so on-the-nose that they might as well simply state, “Be scared now.” The Road doesn’t seem to care if you’re scared. McCarthy really only hints at vile things. He gives you just enough to make you imagine the rest. He understands that the reader’s imagination will do far more than mere words can accomplish on their own. That’s pure skill.

Lastly, The Road has a heart. It struggles with questions of good versus evil, and it does so with an on-the-nose, yet subtle approach. It seems that McCarthy realizes readers will pick up on this theme, so he abandons any efforts at hiding it. And yet, while placing the moral out in the open, the author also subtly hints at it throughout his tale. A strange and layered approach if I’ve ever seen one.

In summary: wow.

5 out of 5 stars

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