On September 24, 2007, I started reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I started it in the red chair in the living room at our house on Madigan Avenue in the late evening. I did not move from the chair until I finished it, at about midnight. I have never read an entire book from beginning to end in one sitting, but I felt like I had no choice after I started The Road.
I could not put the book down. It spoke to me and disturbed me. It struck a raw nerve of fear and dread. I have long feared the end of the world. I have been terrified of the end of the world and the collapse of civilization from the time I learned that we have nuclear bombs that can destroy the planet. I know we take so much for granted about our world, and a major disaster could easily disturb the delicate balance of our civilization. The Road is about that collapse and how a man and his boy deal with it. The two wander the eastern United States scrounging for food and evading roving bands of cannibals. There is no food. There are no animals. Nothing works. The world is dark, and the sky is covered in endless clouds. Something happened– McCarthy doesn’t say what it was– and everything has fallen apart.
The characters spoke to me, a man and his boy. He carried a gun with two bullets. One for the boy and one for himself if it came to that.
I remember it was cold that night, colder than usual for a September night. The room darkened around me as the light faded to the night. When I finished the book, I looked around and wondered what was happening outside my window in the world. Everything was quiet. The silence seemed to belie the chaos that seethes around us and which sometimes pokes through the fragile cocoons we live in.