By Chet Yarbrough
By Cormac McCarthy
Narrated by Tom Stechschulte
Cormac McCarthy received the Pulitzer Prize for “The Road” in 2006. Times said “The Road” is one of the best books (fiction or non-fiction) written in ten years. Adam Johnson also received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2013 for “The Orphan Master’s Son”.Though these authors are skilled writers, their stories seem marginally relevant and unworthy of such high praise.
Is fiction relevant? Maybe fiction does not have to be relevant. Maybe fiction only has to be entertaining. McCarthy and Johnson certainly achieve that appeal.
McCarthy’s story brings a tear to a reader’s eye but the beginning is a muddled middle without any back-story. Why is the world covered in ash, without sun? Neither the end nor beginning gives a clue. McCarthy infers there is no need of explanation because the world will either end in a whimper or be saved by children.
McCarthy writes a story of two bullets in a gun that are protection and escape. Two bullets are protection from predators, or escape from life, in the hands of a father that must make choices. The son is a conscience that mitigates a father’s spiral into bestiality.
There is a man and a boy talking to each other as father and son. They travel from north to south on a bleak American road, sparsely populated by other human beings. Father and son meet fellow humans on the road. These human-become-beasts are driven by hunger that makes them eat their children and harvest unwary survivors of some unexplained devastation.
Most of McCarthy’s story is about a father and son’s scavenging for food. In the hunt for food, human strengths and frailties of both father and son break through their conversation. Both struggle with giving up and going on. The father is willing to murder to protect his son. The son fears living and dying but insists on human understanding of the plight of others. Both acknowledge there are good and bad people in the world.
The father insists on conversation when his son seems to disagree or is quiet for too long. McCarthy cleverly exposes the mistakes people make in shutting down rather than opening up when they disagree.
“The Road” is a bleak story without a beginning but it has a middle that lures listeners to its end.