Monday, November 30, 2009
In Which Trai Reviews 'The Road'
Seriously, I suck at this. I read Push by Sapphire, the basis for the movie Precious, in the last few weeks, but I'm not sure I want to review it with all the movie hype and my own mixed feelings about it (although I am eager to see the movie). Instead, I will work on my backlog of three reviews! (This is going to get worse every month, mark my words.)
The Book: The Road
The Author: Cormac McCarthy
How I Found It: It was being made into a movie with Viggo Mortensen. Let me repeat that more slowly: Viggo. Freaking. Mortensen. (Yes, I'm aware he's old enough to be my father.)
The Review: So I've never really been a fan of the whole Oprah thing and I haven't followed her book club, but I will admit that I've read this one and White Oleander and I think she (or her staff, whatever) has made some good choices. I do have a couple more of them on my TBR pile, I believe.
Anyway, yes, I was drawn to The Road when I learned the aforementioned Viggo Freaking Mortensen would be playing the main role, the Father. My initial reading of the book got sidetracked, but I read the large majority of the book the night before and the day of seeing the movie (literally crying in the parking lot about twenty minutes before seeing the movie).
The Road is not a very long book, but it is very powerful. It describes a future in which an unspecified apocalyptic event has left most of humanity, or what is left of it, struggling to survive. The book is the story of a man, abandoned by his wife, and his son attempting to "go South" in the search of an inhabitable area.
They walk along the road for miles and miles, constantly running into danger. Thieves could steal their few possessions; they could be killed by bandits; they could run into cannibals. They cannot get wet, or they risk dying in the cold. And always, the father does all he can to defend his son.
There were bits of this book that really, truly got to me, and I'm not sure of why, for some of them. I cried when the father tells his son stories of life on Earth before the apocalypse, and then realizes that his son, born just after the catastrophe, knows nothing at all of the things he describes. I was severely unnerved by an encounter with a thief who steals all the possessions the man and boy have, whom the man leaves, naked and with nothing, on the road, after the boy begs him not to kill him. As mentioned before, I was crying at the end.
This is not an easy book to read-- stylistically, it is, but in terms of the images it presents, it is hard to swallow. A world where there is absolutely nothing but ash and depraved humanity is not a world we would like to imagine.
The movie did a very good job of staying faithful to the book-- since I read most of it very close to seeing the movie, it was easy to tell what bits they'd plucked directly from it. Some scenes were shifted around, sometimes for no discernible reason, but I could understand the need to break up the monotony a viewer would likely complain of if the long traveling sections from the novel were kept in.
The acting was top-notch-- Viggo did a wonderful job portraying the father, and I might just jump on the Oscar-nom bandwagon. Kodi Smitt-McPhee was great as the son, more impressive than I would have expected from a kid.
The book is not very long and can easily be read within a day. I recommend it for fans of post-apocalyptic stories or anyone who wants a story about how much a father will do for his son.