Well now, who had a nice big cry over our intrepid but weary dad and his keenly observant and silently sad son?
Fortunately, not me – but I’m told post-apocalyptic The Road burns your internal organs and has you sobbing on planes, trains and automobiles all over the world.
I admit, I did wobble a couple of times because I had been forewarned that it would ream me emotionally, and any time there are children involved in anything I am completely useless. To reach over and feel if your child is still breathing in an uncertain, cold hellish wasteland will absolutely kick me in the gut. Everything else, well… it didn’t slay me. Which is both good and bad.
Bad shit happens. Like real bad shit. The roasted baby I think will be something I’ll not soon forget, nor will I the people in the basement. I don’t know what it says about me (or the things I’m acclimatised to reading) that it didn’t upset me, but I’ve always been more fascinated and profoundly moved by books and movies that are bleak, unhopeful, and with a tragic ending. Unexpected tragic endings are even better. Which is kind of why I didn’t enjoy this book’s hopeful, uplifting (and somewhat abrupt?) ending. Call me callous but wouldn’t it be even more poignant if the boy wasn’t rescued? And had to live out his days in utter uselessness? In a land that’s going to kill you anyway no matter how brave you are or how hard you try? I mean… that’s an ending. That’ll stay with you. Now I just imagine him fishing in the sunshine with his new mommy. A severe swerve from the driving devastation and discomfort the rest of the book described so beautifully.
The spare, punchy prose is a joy to read. What a story, told so simply and so matter-of-fact. The world has ended, there is no food, and everyone you meet will kill you. There. is. no. hope. Yet a man continues to live and keep his son alive even after his wife has died by suicide knowing to try and live is futile. Dangerous, even. Why bother?
In our real-life book club chat we talked about how none of the events in the book seemed far-fetched – all of it was entirely possible. but it also sparked some interesting conversation online also – if this was your reality, would you tap out like the mum, or push on like the dad? The dad who roamed the land with only two bullets in his gun, one to kill his son if he had to, before anyone else could hurt him. With no food! No ability to grow any food. Everything burned to the ground, everything looted, no humans to trust. Where being alive is a complete waste of time. Every minute is a miserable, worthless, stressful struggle.
What would you do?
“Can I ask you something?”
“Yes. Of course.”
“Are we going to die?”
“Sometime. Not now.”