May’s book club was hosted by Sandra, who is always an amazing host. She has a lovely, grownup house that she insists is all the work of her husband’s modern tastes, and she fills their kitchen with goodies for us to nibble as we chat. She is the kind of considerate person who stocks special beverages for the pregnant book club member and remembers the favourites of other people coming. And of course, seeing as she’s the creator of the chocolate review site Blog Chocolate, there is always plenty of delicious, chocolatey things.

She’s not just a good host, either. She’s amazing, really. She’s a fundraiser nonpareil, a passionate supporter of women’s causes, a tireless business dynamo and incredibly devoted mother. This is a woman who will get up at 4 in the morning to pack it all into a day, and never fails to look perfectly put together doing it. I do feel like a lazy slob by comparison, and if she didn’t have such a great heart and down-to-earth manner, you might hate her, but instead? I know you’d love her if you met.

Her pick?

the-road black.jpgThe Road
by Cormac McCarthy

Knopf Doubleday
ISBN: 9780307387899

This novel is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which mere survival is a struggle and caring is nearly heroic. The landscape and prospects of a future are incredibly bleak, making suicide look simply practical, and murder seem like mercy. Into this was born a child who now walks with his father, mother some time gone, and the two are everything to one another, and mostly, the reason that each carries on walking, scavenging, and trying hard to avoid those few remaining others who are mostly surviving by casting aside “goodness” and thriving by horrific means.

This is difficult reading, to be sure, and I did something I’d never done before – went looking for a spoiler to find out the ending before I got there. This sort of bleakness is not my thing, but what kept me going (apart from the spoiler – just knowing what was coming helped!) was the skill of the writing. I’m glad I kept going, too, because the language was incredibly well chosen, and McCarthy is exceptional at setting a mood and building a world that is fully present in your mind’s eye. That was, in fact, what most of us found most powerful – the way he creates something that is so immersive and really stays with you after you have finished and laid down the book.

We are certainly not alone in finding this powerful stuff, either. This was a Pulitzer prize winner, a bestseller, and Oprah pick, and a top recommendation of a whole raft of esteemed publications. That such difficult stuff can be written so gorgeously is quite incredible, and although I am in general a pretty wimpy reader (hey, I mostly read kids stuff, which this is most emphatically not), I found that once I got my worries out of the way and was able to concentrate on the language, I was richly rewarded for sticking with the book. One of our members noted that she wished she had read it before she had children, and I quite agree – you can’t help but be gripped by the what-ifs and the concern as a parent, but that also makes it that much more affecting.

the road - trees.jpgFinally, I want to share this alternate book cover. The one above is what you might find online or in the bookstore, but I also saw this one, which I love, because it captures the world as described so well. It is a bleak, uncertain, dead world, and the fogginess here reflects beautifully the eerie mood of traveling in that place.

Though not for the faint of heart, I recommend this strongly – and if you are a little bit of a chicken like me, go hunt for a spoiler to help you concentrate on the quality of the writing, for it is truly a cut above.

  • Aileen

    I read this on my husband’s recommendation. He warned me it was difficult but said, “you won’t be able to put it down. It’s very powerfully written.” I was afraid it would be a little too futuristic sci-fi for me (my husband’s fave genre) but it was not. I loved it as much as he did and we have very different taste in books normally. It is difficult to be sure, but so compelling. I highly recommend it.

  • Carol

    Thanks Alice for this review. I too would describe myself as a wimp when it comes to a difficult read. With your recommendation I think it’s time to give this book a chance.
    BTW love your friend’s chocolate website! I’m going to try out the Nanaimo bar recipe. My In-Laws are visiting from New Zealand and they love Nanaimo bars.

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