When I came across a blog review of 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy it reminded me of impressions I had after finishing it earlier this year. Apart from being quite beautifully and sparely written, the post-apocalyptic/post nuclear event world was eerie and frighteningly deserted.
It reminded me of John Marsden's 'Tomorrow, When the War Began' and his subsequent books about post-invasion Australia. The characters could never be at ease or safe, always unsure who was watching or lurking around them. It was partly menacing but also forlorn and lonely.
The twist which really surprised me about the story was about perspective in narrative. The man builds a slow picture, through gradual revelation of his and his son's history, of what has happened to the world and to humanity. I did not question the truth of his perspective until the last scene of the book. McCarthy, by the isolation of the two main characters through the book, maintains their perspective as the trustworthy account of how the world has reached the point we glimpse. It was only when other characters entered the narrative and spoke, that the man's perspective was questioned. It was only on reflecting back from the conclusion, that I was able to see the possibility of paranoia or isolating himself for reasons we may not even have known.
The love that the man had for his son was interesting, also. I hope that I would want to stay alive for my child, even when I had lost desire to live. The father's love was fiercely protective and sacrificial, in a strange way. The instinct for survival and care for his son in the midst of loss and desperation was so strong.
I was left wondering how often we picture our own history a certain way, and how often it is only part of the story. We have a particular narrative in mind as we reflect on our experiences and it is so easy to mistake those around us - to misunderstand actions or motives, to perceive situations wrongly. Of course there are times when our version corresponds with the stories of those around us, but sometimes we get it totally wrong and misunderstand completely.
There was a note of hope at the end of the story, but humanity was deeply troubled, lost and struggling. It was evident that survival was a haphazard and dangerous pursuit, and left me thinking of Jesus' compassion for the crowds, 'harrassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd'.