Life after The End

There’s plenty of Southern and plenty of gothic in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (out 9/26), but it’s actually a rather astonishing departure for the cult Southern Gothic novelist.

The South here is merely a vague, urgent destination: A father and his young son are heading down from the unspecified North through an ashy, post-apocalyptic landscape to the Southern coast, in hopes of not freezing to death as winter descends. And “gothic,” really, understates matters: Their world is sparsely peopled by the desperate and deranged, most of whom must be avoided like the worst of the Mad Max lot.

The simplest, sparest dialogue here — the father reassuring the son, and the son saying “Okay” — can have the force of a gut-punch. And putting down the novel even momentarily can leave you wracked with worry as you wonder if the two will be okay.

It’s incredibly bleak, but it’s also a deeply moving metaphorical direct hit, given our current post-9/11, Christian Rapturist, post-Katrina, pre-whatever-the-hell cultural moment.

The Road is riveting and devastating — and one of the best novels of the year.

“>BUY Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (Knopf; 256 pages)

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