First of all, please don’t think I picked this book up because of the Oprah endorsement. I’m made of meatier things than can be swayed by an Empress. But when it comes to Viggo Mortensen, I’m JELLY. It might have something to do with his hair/face/body. Anyhoo, I remember seeing the cover of the book whilst shelving at the unnamed bookstore I worked for and thinking, “Oh, Viggo, when will we stop playing these games?” At around the same time my brother saw No Country for Old Men and was all, “I’m scared to sleep alone.” That movie being based on a McCarthy book paired with Viggo on the cover of THIS book slayed me. So I began the reading.
And let me tell you. It is not a happy read. Clinically depressed people and people prone to over-sympathizing, stay away. You will not have a happy thought for days. Not exaggerating.
The two main characters of this book – who have no names and are simply known as ‘boy’ and ‘man’ – are part of the last group of people left on earth after some turrrrrible apocalyptic event. Though what happened is never really explained, I think some nuclear bombs were involved because there is no sunlight or warmth and food and water are scarce. Sounds like a nuclear fallout to me, folks. Anyway, we meet the father and son as they make their way to the coast. They operate under the assumption that it will somehow be better there: warmer, brighter, food-ier. And as they travel, they have to avoid people who either want to steal the little food they have left or make them food. And by “make them food,” I don’t mean prepare a meal for them. I mean, “Can I have a side of boy with my man.” Cannibals, people. They are out there. And rapists. And the only protection the pair have against such vagabonds is a gun with two bullets in it. You may be thinking, “Hey, Man. How are you going to protect yourself and your son from a group larger than two people with that gun?” And then you become privy to the man’s inner thoughts and realize that the bullets are not for the vagabonds but for the two of them in case they come across some crazies.
Despite the dark setting and circumstances, you can feel the love the father and son have for each other and the fear they harbor of losing one another. The son already lost his mother and fears losing his father, too. And with the threats they have to deal with on a daily basis, it’s no surprise the kid has some abandonment issues. The only thing that keeps them going is hope. Hope for something better at the coast, hope for food, hope for a better life. It’s like the apocalyptic event opened up Pandora’s box and these two are the hope that keeps the world going.
I don’t want to give any more away, except to say that one of the pair is keeping a secret from the other that may affect their survival. This book is wonderfully written with you running for mom one minute and running for a tissue the next. The only criticism I have is that following dialogue gets a bit tricky sometimes. No names and a lack of quotation marks had me reading conversations multiple times. Which slowed down the plot. Which meant I had to wait to find out what happened next!
Four and a half coffees out of five.