There's a certain comfort to knowing that things can't get any worse. While McCarthy's "The Road" is undeniably bleak and occasionally disturbing, I was surprised to frequently find myself in a peaceful, semi-meditative mood as I progressed through the novel.

No doubt part of this effect is due to Tom Stechschulte's expert narration. But there's something in the ceaseless forward motion, acceptance of tragedy, and unrelenting will to live that infuses McCarthy's narrative. It snuck up on me. I didn't realize what he was doing at the time, but as I think about it more, I see "The Road" as a deeply hopeful novel that celebrates the dignity of a man in the face of an impossible world.