Cormac McCarthy's novel about a father and his ten-year-old son in a post-apocalyptic world travelling through the southeastern United States. It won the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 2006, and was selected for Oprah's Book Club.
Ten years after an unspecified disaster ("A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions...") there is no more sunlight. No more civilization. No wildlife. No hope. A landscape of corpses. The few humans around are starving. Ash covers everything. And yet McCarthy's dying protagonist perserveres, carrying a fierce determination to get his son to somewhere better, a somewhere that might not exist.
Though many reviewers peg this novel as a mashup of science fiction and religious parable, novelist Michael Chabon makes a persuasive case for interpreting The Road as a horror novel. The father is haunted by both the ghosts of the world past and by fear that he will fail to protect his son from the world present. And while McCarthy populates his cauterized landscape with horrors not out of place in a Mad Max movie, he narrates the story with sparse prose that amplifies the mythic quality of what is, essentially, an epic quest through the underworld.
For me, two features of the novel's milieu were particularly chilling: first is the disappearance of stories. Stories of the past have no meaning for the boy, who has only grown up knowing the world as ruined. And the boy does not wish to hear any fairy tales, for a "happy ending" itself has no meaning for him. Second, McCarthy personalizes the feelings of a man who wrestles daily with his feelings of loyalty and love toward his son, in a world where human altruism itself totters on extinction.
Additional sources: Michael Chabon, "After the Apocalypse." The New York Review of Books. Volume 54, Number 2. February 15, 2007. <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19856> (November 23, 2007)
Ron Charles, "Apocalypse Now." Washington Post. October 1, 2006. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/28/AR2006092801460.html> (November 23, 2007)
Mark Holcomb, "End of the Line." The Village Voice. August 31, 2006. <http://www.villagevoice.com/books/0636,holcomb,74342,10.html> (November 23, 2007)