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I write novels for teens and adults. Visit me here & on my website http://www.jenniferarcher.net

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Road

I joined a book club a few months ago. I meet with four other women -- Donna, Cindy, Amy and Renae -- we choose a novel, read it and discuss it at the next meeting. We also eat, drink, laugh and debate. It's interesting and great fun! I am the only writer in the bunch so I also had another motive for joining besides the obvious pleasure of getting together with a diverse group of fun-loving, interesting women. It's an education for me to watch how readers react to plotlines and characters, how they judge the choices a writer makes in building a story.

In February, Renae, who is a high school science teacher, Methodist minister and the only group member who'll drink wine with me :-) chose Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD as our next selection. Mr. McCarthy is also the author of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. After I started the book, I spent a little time cursing Renae under my breath and grumbling to my husband "this piece of x!$% has possibly the worst dialogue I've ever read and very little punctuation and it won the Pulitzer! And the plot is completely depressing and disgusting!" But I COULDN'T QUIT READING. I stayed up until 3 a.m. and finished it in one sitting. I WEPT at the end...literally had to climb out of bed and tiptoe into the bathroom so I wouldn't wake my husband! Since then, I've tried to analyze why it hit me so hard. Yes it was tragic and sad and horrifying, but I'm not sure that's what brought me to tears. It was more the message I came away with, and the beautiful way Cormac McCarthy delivered it on the last page. I can't remember another book that has affected me in the way THE ROAD has. I am haunted by it. Yes, the dialogue is monotonous, but I see a reason for that now. Yes, the world of the story and what happens there is disgusting, depressing, terrifying and sickening beyond belief, but it COULD HAPPEN, and I'm afraid it might some day.

THE ROAD is a hard book to read in many ways, yet every woman in my group finished it. The responses varied. But I think even Donna and Amy, who came to the meeting saying they HATED it, had a different perspective after we discussed the story. It is chock full of symbolism--a lot of it biblical (and I'm sure a lot more of it was present that I missed since I'm no great Bible scholar.) If you're looking for entertainment, you won't find it here. But if you're in the mood for a thought-provoking read, give it a try. I'm not sure I could read it a second time, but I might try, if only to attempt to understand how the author managed to draw me into a world and a style of writing I thought I couldn't stand, and then keep me there until I found the beauty and wisdom in it.


Travis Erwin said...

Yes, sometimes it pays to be a patient reader. I kind of felt the same way you describe about The Hours. Thought I didn't cry at the end I did think author Michael Cunningham salvaged what I thought was a bad book by having a great ending.

dee said...

I'll have to check it out...although you know how I love great dialogue so it might be a REAL challenge for me to put up with less than stellar yakity yak....

Jennifer said...

Hi Travis,

I haven't read The Hours but I did see the movie. I met Michael Cunningham at a conference once and heard him speak. Nice guy and an interesting speaker. Hey, I checked out your blog! Great job! I'll be back but I'm a lurker, mostly!

Jennifer said...

Hi Dee,

If you read it I want to discuss it with you!

Anonymous said...

So...I can write a crappy book as long as the last few pages hook the reader and leave them in awe?


Jennifer said...

LOL, April! That's just it--the book wasn't crappy, it was brilliant. I was drawn in completely--I couldn't put it down despite the things that initially "bugged" me about it. And then by the time I reached the end, everything he did throughout the book made perfect sense. It was all for a reason.

Travis Erwin said...

Thanks for checking out my blog. I have a lot of fun with it.

If you choose to accept it, I gave you an assignment on my blog today.