The ending of The Road reminds you of the wonder of a great book. By the end you are immersed in this burnt out world where ash, darkness and death pervade and hope is something that is akin to a dream.
The central characters of the father and son not only hold up a mirror to the present and the past but also remind you, all too powerfully at the end of the story, about the difference in mortality between the young and old. The father talks of the fire being passed down from generation to generation but it feels more like a burden as the skills that helped one generation exist disappear into the ash.
Having reached the coast the disappointment at the grey sea and the lack of difference is palpable. The cart full of their belongings squeaks along the road and the constant search for provisions and tools that will help them dominates everything. McCarthy brings together all of his themes of dying eras that have been in his other books as well as his ability to create characters that have a deep friendship. Just as with Billy cradling the dead John Grady in his arms in Cities of the Plain there is another of those moments here as the last few pages slip by.
Ambitious books like this throw up big questions. At the end you are left not only wondering what it would be like to live in the world of The Road, but how you can live now to make sure our children not only never face a burnt out world, but have the life skills needed to survive whatever is thrown at them.