Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Dark, Disturbing Road

Do you remember the happy books you read? Those that are light and breezy? Those with happy-ever-after endings? Most of the time, my bet would be you don’t. You read them, and they’re gone.

Not this book, The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. I found myself hesitating to even review this book, it is so disturbing to me. The prose is simple, even stark. The atmosphere is relentlessly bleak. The main character, whose name we never know, spends most of the book foraging and scavenging to feed himself and his starving son. The cover says it takes place in America, but it could be anywhere.

It is post-apocalyptic literature at it’s bleakest. All we know is that there were huge balls of light and then everything burned, and kept burning. It is still burning, in some places, during the time span of this novel. It rains or snows most of the time, and the rain is grey and the snow is grey. It is bone-chilling cold, and gathering wood for a fire to keep warm is a constant task.There is never a clear sunny day, only lighter or darker shades of grey. The nights are dark, no moon, no stars, just blackness.

It’s another one of those books I grabbed on the way to the airport without looking too carefully. I saw this was an Oprah Book Club choice and didn’t even read the cover. These books I just grabbed have grabbed me in return – I have read five in a row, books I have to talk over with my husband while I am reading them, they are so full of ideas I need to explore, unsettling settings, shaking to insecurity all that we take for granted.

This one, though, is seriously dark. I read until past midnight last night, adrenaline pumping through my system, as the man and his son evade marauders, thieves, and cannibals. I needed the human warmth of my husband’s body next to mine to drive away the alienation of this book. Even safe in my own bed, though, my sleep is troubled and I wake feeling scared and depressed. As you read The Road, you realize how very thin the veneer of civilization is that holds us together in community, and how that veneer rips when there is no longer law holding back the more powerful, those with weapons, those with more resources. When food becomes scarce, when people become very hungry . . . the rules break down, in serious and unthinkable ways.

If one book can have such an impact on my emotions and feelings of security, I can’t help but think how the trauma of the Iraqi invasion must still be resonating, invisible, below the surface, but an uninvited guest in the daily lives of those who experienced those horrors and trauma in Kuwait. You wonder if you will ever trust in “normal” again?

When your world suddenly shifts in a heartbeat, when your wealth disappears, when you suddenly have only your wits to survive on, how will YOU do?

As the Father and Son travel The Road seeking a warmer climate, and “the good guys”, goodness is remarked by its absence. Our protagonist refuses to help a lost child, a cellar full of people being kept as a food supply, and a couple of men along the road whose situation is even worse than their own. His son, born just after the event which forever changes the world, begs his Dad to share, but the Dad, knowing how spare the food supply is, refuses.

Beyond a crossroads in that wilderness they began to come upon the possessions of travelers abandoned in the road years ago. Boxes and Bags. Everything melted and black. Old suitcases curled shapeless in the heat. Here and there the imprint of things wrested out of the tar by scavengers. A mile on and they began to come upon the dead. Figures half mired in the blacktop, clutching themselves, mouths howling. He put his hand across the boy’s shoulder. Take my hand, he said. I don’t think you should see this.

Yes.
It’s OK Papa.
It’s OK?
They’re already there.
I don’t want you to look.
They’ll still be there.
He stopped and leaned on the cart. He looked down at the road and he looked at the boy. So strangely untroubled.
Why don’t we just go on, the boy said.
Yes. Okay.
They were trying to get away, weren’t they Papa?
Yes. They were.
Why didn’t they leave the road?
They couldn’t. Everything was on fire.

I dropped other things I really needed to do so that I could finish The Road. I can’t spend another night wondering how I would survive in this dog-eat-dog world. I need to move on with my life. I need to shift my focus.

And yet . . . I recommend McCarthy’s The Road to you. It is dark, it is brutal, it is relentlessly bleak, but still there is a thin golden thread of the father and son relationship weaving through the tapestry of despair, which redeems the book. You can’t help but admire the determination to persist, when the signs are all around you that nothing is going to get better. Somehow, in spite of all the despair, there is redemption, and even hope.

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May 6, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Community, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Poetry/Literature, Relationships | 5 Comments

Changing Times

The Kuwait Times has a different look these days – a lot more advertising. Now that the LuLu has opened, grocery stores are starting to advertise. Just wait until Carrefour opens! Choice has come to Kuwait, and things are going to start to get much more interesting!

In yesterday’s Kuwait Times is a FULL PAGE ad for the Villa Moda sale starting today with prices up to 90%! It does not say “up to 90% off” it says “LUXURY DESIGNER STOCK CLEARANCE SALE UP TO 90%” and it goes on to say the sale is today, Sunday, May 6 from 10 am to 10 pm “while stocks last.”

It also encourages Villa Moda fans to go to at http://www.villa-moda.com for more information and special offers and events, and to send you e-mail with your full name, mobile number and date of birth to NEWS@villa-moda.com.

May 6, 2007 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Events, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Shopping | 5 Comments