First sentence: When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.
Reflections: A man and his son set out on a journey across a country which has been destroyed in some kind of apocalyptic event. This event apparently took place several years ago, but everything is still covered in ash. No life remains in the towns, and there are usually signs of a hasty departure, of townspeople fleeing to safety. Very few were spared; bodies appear in buidings, and even in the middle of the road. It is not clear how or why the man and boy survived up to this point. Now they are on their way south, hopeful of finding a better place.
Survival skills are paramount. Bands of robbers roam the land, looting and killing. Survivors often resort to cannibalism. The contents of homes and stores have usually been ransacked by travellers and bandits. Yet the man and boy explore every building they come across. Occasionally they find something: blankets, clothes, or food. At the same time, MacCarthy's describes in great detail these once-fashionable houses, in a way that made me question why we place so much importance on our homes and other material possessions.
The man's deep love for the boy permeates every sentence in this book. The emotional intensity is evident both in their will to live and in the ways they care for one another. MacCarthy manages to convey this deep feeling through the most basic dialogue, as in this example when they have just come across a bountiful store of food:
Go ahead, he said. Don't let it get cold.
What do I eat first?
Whatever you like.
Is this coffee?
Yes. Here. You put the butter on your biscuits. Like this.
Do you think we should thank the people?
The people who gave us all this.
Well. Yes, I guess we could do that.
The most haunting aspect of this book was the boy's mother's death. She apparently committed suicide when it became evident the world as she knew it would be destroyed. She preferred to end her life; the man chose to remain with his son and try to survive. When considering what path I would choose, I realized how difficult this decision could be. There really is no correct answer.
This is a beautifully-written book that will remain with me for a very long time.
Original review can be found here.