The Road is a 2006 novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy. It is a post-apocalyptic tale of a journey of a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blasted by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed most of civilization and, in the intervening years, almost all life on Earth. The novel was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 2006. The book was adapted to a film by the same name in 2009, directed by John Hillcoat, starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
PlotAn unnamed father and his young son journey across a grim post-apocalyptic landscape, some years after a major unexplained cataclysm has destroyed civilization and most life on Earth. The land is filled with ash and devoid of living animals and vegetation. Many of the remaining human survivors have resorted to cannibalism, scavenging the detritus of city and country alike for flesh. The boy’s mother, pregnant with him at the time of the disaster, gave up hope and committed suicide some time before the story began, despite the father’s pleas. Much of the book is written in the third person, with references to “the father” and “the son” or to “the man” and “the boy”.
Realizing that they cannot survive the oncoming winter where they are, the father takes the boy south, along empty roads towards the sea, carrying their meager possessions in their knapsacks and in a supermarket cart. The man coughs blood from time to time and eventually realizes he is dying, yet still struggles to protect his son from the constant threats of attack, exposure, and starvation.
They have a revolver, but only two rounds. The boy has been told to use the gun on himself, if necessary to avoid falling into the hands of cannibals. During their trek, the father uses one bullet to kill a man who stumbles upon them and poses a grave threat. Fleeing from the man’s companions, they have to abandon most of their possessions.
Although the man and the boy eventually reach the sea, their situation does not improve. They head back inland, but the man succumbs to an illness. Before he dies, the father tells the boy that he can continue to speak with him in his imagination after he is gone. The boy holds wake over the corpse for days, with no idea of what to do next.
On the third day, the grieving boy encounters a man who says he has been tracking the pair. The man, who has a woman and two children of his own, a boy and a girl, convinces the boy that he is one of the “good guys” and takes him under his protection.
Awards and nominations
In 2006 McCarthy was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in fiction, the Believer Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. On April 16, 2007, the novel was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In 2012, it was shortlisted for the Best of the James Tait Black.