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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book Review: The Road

A good book doesn't distract you from life, it takes you deeper into life.  A good book makes you love goodness, beauty, and truth.  It expands you as a person.  It makes you understand and love other people better.  That's the best I can do for a definition, because most of it is inexpressible.  And that is The Road.  It is a good book.  By definition.  And unspeakably so.

Since I'm not one whose interests gravitate toward post-apocalyptic literature, I almost didn't read it.  And I admit that it was the comments of a few friends who had read it and another song by Andrew Peterson that pushed me over the edge, which is an appropriate analogy for the book itself.  McCarthy takes his readers to the edge of existence, and he doesn't bring them back.  I hate it.  I hated it from the third page.  I wanted it to stop.  With every page, I felt my spirit writhing with the need to finish.  Stopping, of course, was out of the question.  It was completion that I longed for.  Resolution after the mercilessly slow slogging through the swamp of desperate depravity.  And of course, there was none to be had.  I also expected that.  It's an extreme adult version of Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.

It is essential to the story that the boy is conceived in the living world and born into the dead one.  Everything is dying.  It would be inappropriate to say that "the boy lives with his father..."  Rather, they are dying together as they travel pointlessly, hopelessly toward the southern ocean of the world.  In the chilling account of their journey and their gruesome adventures, something of goodness is woven through it.  The atheists are somehow satisfied, because the goodness remains unnamed, but it cannot be anything other than God Himself.  Love is immortal, you learn.  Though you cannot say what it is anchored in.  Even so, latent anger pulses through every line.  The unasked question of the entire work is "why?" and an accusing finger points heavenward as they pass their moments always dragging themselves slowly toward certain ends, but uncertain means.  And it doesn't end well.  It cannot.  Like the dying world around them, there is no hope.  But it isn't necessarily a bad thing to lose hope.  As long as you find something in yourself to live for.  Some fire to carry. These are not the lies. It is the last paragraph that holds the lie.  The lie that the world will not be remade.  Cannot.

It is a truthful work.  Incomplete with a severe, visceral quality to its themes.  Read it because, as I told Janice, it is like surgery.  Gross and painful in the process, but life saving in the results.  The Road will teach you what to treasure.  Even though danger lies in its assumptions.

There is are mysteries.  There are darknesses.  Losses.  Storms that can't be weathered.  And at the end of it all there is the fire.  The fire that destroyed everything.  And the fire that keeps you alive.  And the fire must be carried.  And you are left longing for the Light.  

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