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The Road | [Cormac McCarthy]

The Road

America is a barren landscape of smoldering ashes, devoid of life except for those people still struggling to scratch out some type of existence. Amidst this destruction, a father and his young son walk, always toward the coast, but with no real understanding that circumstances will improve once they arrive. Still, they persevere, and their relationship comes to represent goodness in a world of utter devastation.
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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2007

America is a barren landscape of smoldering ashes, devoid of life except for those people still struggling to scratch out some type of existence. Amidst this destruction, a father and his young son walk, always toward the coast, but with no real understanding that circumstances will improve once they arrive. Still, they persevere, and their relationship comes to represent goodness in a world of utter devastation.

Bleak but brilliant, with glimmers of hope and humor, The Road is a stunning allegory and perhaps Cormac McCarthy's finest novel to date. This remarkable departure from his previous works has been hailed by Kirkus Reviews as a "novel of horrific beauty, where death is the only truth".

McCarthy, a New York Times best-selling author, is a past recipient of the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. He is widely considered one of America's greatest writers.

Check out more selections from Oprah's Book Club.

©2006 M-71, Ltd.; (P)2006 Recorded Books LLC

What the Critics Say

"McCarthy's prose retains its ability to seduce...and there are nods to the gentler aspects of the human spirit." (The New Yorker)
"One of McCarthy's best novels, probably his most moving and perhaps his most personal...Every moment of The Road is rich with dilemmas that are as shattering as they are unspoken...McCarthy is so accomplished that the reader senses the mysterious and intuitive changes between father and son that can't be articulated, let alone dramatized...Both lyric and savage, both desperate and transcendent, although transcendence is singed around the edges...Tag McCarthy one of the four or five great American novelists of his generation." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)

What Members Say

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Performance
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  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 06-27-11
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 06-27-11 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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    "Stunning -- if you can take it"

    Perhaps the most unequivocally gloomy novel I've ever read, The Road takes place on a seemingly doomed near-future Earth, in which some unspecified but massive disaster has made the world nearly unlivable. Crops are dead, all traces of law and order are long gone, and what's left of humanity has been reduced to roaming scavengers and bands of cannibals. The novel focuses on a man and his young son, who are making their way across what used to be the United States "towards the south". In what seems to be Cormac McCarthy's style, we learn little about their backstories -- only their struggle to keep going through a hellish, benighted world that could only be described by his stark, weighty prose. Indeed, McCarthy's complex, sometimes arcane descriptive language seems to reference other dark, visionary works in English literature, drawing in some of their power.

    There's not a lot of "plot" to the book. Mostly, the two characters wander, just trying to find enough water, food, and shelter to get through the next day. Even during the stretches where nothing "happens", McCarthy gives each moment a palpable weight: the exhaustion, the fear, the tension of not knowing what's around the next corner, the emptiness of a dead world, the lure of an escape by suicide, and a father's desperate bond with his son, who is young enough to not fully understand the meaning of the reality around him. And there are some truly harrowing scenes, as well.

    This isn't the easiest novel to take in, though, like McCarthy's Blood Meridian, I also found it mesmerizing and hard to put down. There are even strange moments of beauty in the shadow. Like few works in apocalyptic literature, The Road goes all the way to the edge of abyss, extinguishing hope down to the tiniest flickering flame. Yet, as long as that flame remains, there is no looking away. A powerful book, and one that might make you gaze into your own soul.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Katy, TX, United States 11-25-09
    Barry Katy, TX, United States 11-25-09
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    "I loved this book"

    I like McCarthy's writing style, but its never been better than in The Road. The setting is a bleak future, a man and his boy holding on to each other despite having absolutely nothing to live for. The story moves along well, with McCarthy's brilliant prose, but the bleak atmosphere is not something all will appreciate.
    Many criticize this book because of the lack of sophisticated dialog. In fact, a man and his son travelling along a road in the cold of winter probably would not have many deep, philosophical discussions.
    The story is simple, but it's what McCarthy does with it that gives its complexity.
    There are some moments in the story that are some of the most memorable I've ever read; particularly the man's remembrance of the final conversation he had with his wife.
    The author manages to introduce a fair amount of realistic suspense into the story. I cringed at what the man found in the basement of that house...
    McCarthy is one of the most brilliant writers, and he is at his absolute best here. But you'll probably either love it or hate it.
    Oh yeah, Tom Stechschulte's narration is perfect for this book.

    19 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Regina-Audible USA 12-21-13
    Regina-Audible USA 12-21-13 Member Since 2010

    Audible editor and data evangelist. Lover of fiction, classics, thrillers, celebrity memoirs, and quirky teen novels.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Haunting Must-Listen"

    Set in a cold and dark post-apocolypic America, The Road maintains a steady pace of bleak hopelessness. The father/son pair have lost everything, including their identities, and are on an unknown journey towards something better. The story captures their bond and persistence, with tiny glimmers of hope in a seemingly endless void. Tom Stechschulte's narration is spot-on and chilling, and stayed with me long after the end.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Book Fan Virginia 12-08-09
    Book Fan Virginia 12-08-09 Member Since 2008

    Ima

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    "A good, solid read"

    Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' is a black book of wondrous paragraphs that quickly pulls you into the sad, sad world of the man and his boy. I found myself sitting in my car long after my commute ended to hear more and more of this story.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Justin Portland, OR, United States 11-10-09
    Justin Portland, OR, United States 11-10-09
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    "Thought provoking"

    This book is not chock full of action and adventure. However, I didn't feel the story needed all that drama. It was very real, and it made me think long and hard about what life would be like if I were in the main characters shoes, with no real place to go because everywhere has been affected. To be one of only a handful of survivors, left to scavenge for any semblance of life, is a powerful, heavy thought.
    The author did a wonderful job of leaving out pertinent details that can be left open for interpretation, yet giving the reader a heavy dose of details in other aspects. I liked that the father and son are nameless (they are referred to as the man and the boy throughout), and that the details of their prior lives are scarce.
    Lastly, the narrater was phenomenal. I was really able to vividly visualize the man and the boy as he spoke, thanks, in large part, to his delivery.
    I would definitely recommend this to anyone!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ron Sydney, Australia 06-06-09
    Ron Sydney, Australia 06-06-09 Member Since 2012

    Literary graduate and published columnist turned glorified grease monkey.

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    "tough going but good once you're into it."

    I actually stopped reading this half way through the first time. It was just too slow for me. But then I came back to it and started again and made it through. I realised, it is supposed to be slow. It's a post-apocolyptic tale of a man and his boy wandering a desolate land. The pace of the story just serves to emphasise the desparation of their situation. It is a bleak future and they struggle through it. After a while I started to get annoyed with the kid, he always seems to state that he's cold or he's hungry or he's scared, and this doesn't help the narrative. I think the reader can assume these emotions from a 10 year old boy wandering the Earth alone with his father and a shopping cart. On top of that, the man constantly repeats what the boy says and that is frustrating. But it is an interesting survival story and McCarthy is a good teller. The Narrator did very well to instill a sense of hope and the lack of it. The plot gradually builds towards the end, and although I struggled to find excitement in the events that unfolded few and far between, whenever the characters discovered something really rewarding, I felt like I was right there with them.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    O of awesome 01-06-09 Member Since 2012
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    "Extremely moving if you can get through it"

    This book is emotionally brutal. I read previous reviews stating that the reader was tempted to stop reading several times, and I must concur wholeheartedly. There were times that my fear and or horror were just about at their limit. However, this book is well worth the tough journey. And I must give full credit to the narrator, who truly brought these characters to life. A very fulfilling book about parental love and a faith in humanity.

    17 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nicky Gleason Tumwater, WA, United States 10-27-08
    Nicky Gleason Tumwater, WA, United States 10-27-08 Member Since 2013
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    "Dark but moving"

    I was so moved by this book. I got it because I like "post apocalyptic" stories, but this was very different. Most end of the world stories are ultimately about starting over, going back to Eden, building a better world than the old one, etc. This was much more an allegory about the nature of hope, and what it means to be "one of the good guys."

    Seriously dark, like extra dark with a side of dark, but beautiful and poignant, in a way that it couldn't be if it wasn't in that stark contrast with darkness and despair. The story strips away all the trappings of the world until all that's left is who we are and what we believe in. I didn't take it especially literally, but wondered if we aren't each of us both "the man" and "the boy" and our lives are "the road." That's probably just me being flaky though.

    I thought it was really really good, but man, I'm planning to follow it up with something mindless and perky!

    17 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katy J. Berner Amherst, NY United States 02-10-08
    Katy J. Berner Amherst, NY United States 02-10-08 Member Since 2012
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    "Great Post-Apocalyptic Novel"

    I didn't intend to like this book, but I couldn't stop listening and ended up loving it! We're actually thinking of adding it to our reading list at the school where I teach for American Lit. This is an incredible story of a man and his child's journey to survive in an America we hopefully never have to experience. The fear of evil, and the light within us carries the reader through. In some ways we can all identify with the narrator, a man trying to survive and learning to parent in a world where there is little good except that in his own child. A beautiful story, and it's not overly "sci-fi-ish" so anyone can really enjoy it. I think it's a book anyone of any age or sex can really enjoy.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted Kingston, Ontario, Canada 01-28-08
    Ted Kingston, Ontario, Canada 01-28-08 Member Since 2007
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    "Compelling"

    The reader is fabulous. I've stopped books because I just couldn't listen to the reader anymore - not because the book was bad. Here, the novel is spare, eerie, melancholy. The reader captures Cormac McCarthy perfectly.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
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  • Comfortably_Numb
    2/25/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brutal but brilliant"

    This is a fantastic book. Brutal and sparse with barely a drop of hope. Great narration too.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • C
    2/23/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brutally brillant"

    Sparse but powerful prose, littered with deep insights. Loved it. It often reminded me of the way Hemmingway wrote. definitely planning to check out some more of his work.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    Cardiff, Wales
    2/14/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Well written, well read, but well sad!"
    What did you like most about The Road?

    It was a short and quite simple story, but the themes are really human and quite deep.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The characters are few and far between, but you do get a growing sense of who the man and boy are as the story progresses, which is what I liked best.


    Have you listened to any of Tom Stechschulte’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    Yes, his performance on 'No Country For Old Men' was fantastic.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I tend to listen on my commute, so no, not really. However it is short enough to get through in one day if you wanted to.


    Any additional comments?

    Although this story has stayed with me and I think about it often, I sometimes wonder if I would say I 'enjoyed' it because I found it SO SAD! Fathers with young sons beware! But it really is well written and a good story. I didn't think it was as good as 'No Country For Old Men' though.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Dwayne
    1/24/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Heart warming and breathtaking experience."

    It changes you perception of life to the point where you feel as if in a way it has impacted your own luxurious life that we live into toady.an amazing book by far proceeded my expectations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Grimeyreaper
    11/30/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great post apocolypse read"
    What made the experience of listening to The Road the most enjoyable?

    It did what I expected of it


    What did you like best about this story?

    Well described and compelling


    What about Tom Stechschulte’s performance did you like?

    He had the required level of somberness


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I was moved throughout


    Any additional comments?

    None

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Steve Porter
    South Wales
    10/16/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Don't read this to cheer yourself up !! :-("
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Yes.Always worth trying new stuff that's well written, even if it's not your usual cup of tea.And make no mistake, this is well written, especially the sparse dialogue.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    Enjoyed piecing together the back story of 'what in the worlds happened'.Got a bit fed up of dour descriptions of desolate roadscapes and the like.


    What three words best describe Tom Stechschulte’s voice?

    Dour. Warm. Male......


    Was The Road worth the listening time?

    Yep, I think so overall, even though it's not my fave genre.


    Any additional comments?

    This is not a perky book. Unperky. And I mean it.Next one I picked had a deliberate dash of comedy to it.... :-)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ben
    Leamside, United Kingdom
    9/17/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent Narration!"
    Where does The Road rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is an excellent book, and quite possibly the best narration that I have encountered. I have churned my way through a hundred or more audiobooks; been at them for years. So often I find that I enjoy a book despite the narrator, not because of them. He sounds genuinly worldweary and his voice and performance adds a lot to the book. I think in just reading the text I would be missing something. Don't know how they got the autenticity in his performance, maybe they left him out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a trolley and a couple of cans of peaches and some plastic.

    Not often I can be bothered to log on and do a review, but this is well worth a listen, even if you have already read the book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Julie
    Alton, United Kingdom
    7/8/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Captivating"

    I really enjoyed this book. It is well written, well narrated and kept me absorbed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Val
    Castle Douglas, United Kingdom
    3/6/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Depressing story, but magnificent writing."

    Having already seen, and been impressed by, the film I was hoping that the book would be just as good. In fact, it's even better.
    Sometime in the near future, in some unidentified country, a man and his young son are struggling to survive in a world that has been devastated by a vast disaster that is never fully explained. Everything around them is burnt and dead; they are walking along a road to find the sea, where they hope things will be better. The road is full of threats and dangers - specifically from fellow survivors, who have nearly all turned into cannibal savages. Nobody can be trusted and they regularly come across horrors perpetuated by the savages.
    Yes, it sounds depressing, all right. But McCarthy's excellent carries it along - you get a good sense of the characters of these two; the man is a decent and moral person struggling to keep themselves alive in a terrible world, the boy is learning that humans are both bad and good and that he must stay on the side of the good. The dialogue is spare and sparse, often just consisting of "OK, OK", "I know, I know", "We'll go this way", "OK". There are no fancy speeches, no heroic declarations; this is how real people, real family members speak to each other.
    I'd intended only to listen to a couple of chapters before bed, but ended up sitting up all night, unable to stop, willing these two characters - who had become so familiar and dear to me - to survive. Only the ending was a slight disappointment (hence the four stars), but it's difficult to see the author could have ended any other way.
    The reading was beautifully done, also. Tom Stechschulte conveyed the different personalities of the pair really well, even with so little dialogue to work with. And his reading of the descriptive passages - some of them very long - never got boring. Long passages that I would probably have skimmed through in print held my attention all the way through and had me seeing the scene in my mind. His performance bought the whole dismal world of The Road to vivid life.
    .

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Robert
    Putney, United Kingdom
    1/5/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Poetic writing"
    Where does The Road rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is above average but nowhere near the best.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The story only has two consistent characters. It's definitely not the boy. He's a pathetic little twerp. By default it's the man but I wasn't a huge fan of his either.


    What does Tom Stechschulte bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    Not much. Would've preferred to add my own voicings. Although it was a decent performance.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes. I didn't cry but it was heart-wrenching.


    Any additional comments?

    Not the best of it's kind but still very good. The author has a very poetic writing style.
    To be honest the story doesn't really do much, just the man and boy travelling the road. No explanation of the incident, nothing about life after the event. Just them and their scavenging.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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