ROOM by Emma Donoghue
Book description~ To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.
Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.
First, I want to say a special thank you to both Little Brown & Hachette Book Companies for sending me a complimentary copy of Emma Donoghue’s ROOM to read and review on the blog. Shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, I had a gut feeling that this book be such an amazing read, I selected it for December book club discussion sight unseen. I couldn’t be happier and can’t wait to discuss this book at length. This year is all about reading outside my comfort zone and for someone who isn’t particularly fond of small spaces, this book fit the bill.
For Jack’s 21-year-old ‘Ma’, ROOM is a story about survival; for Jack, ROOM is his whole world and he is content with the 11×11 space he’s be confined to, up until his 5th birthday, when his life is turned upside down. Kidnapped when she was 19 years old, Ma’s incredible story of a mother’s love is so strong, she puts everything aside to create a safe world for her son, her only reason for living, with what little she has. Ma loves her son and holds strong to hope.
Without spoiling the awesome plot twists, ROOM will shock you, but you will keep on reading because the idea alone, is gripping and enthralling. I don’t know about you, but I cannot even wrap my MIND around the idea of being held captive for 7 years, from 19-26, then to mother a child from my captor, and be forced to raise him in captivity?? And the implications if we ever got out? Emotionally? Developmentally? Psychologically? What would life be like? How would I explain the grass, the sky, the rain, a barking dog to my son? For Ma, love for her son propelled her to do the impossible; plot escape…
“Jack, he’d never give us a phone or a window. We’re like people in a book, and he won’t let anybody else read it.”
ROOM is officially on my short list of life-changing novels. No matter who you are, I can guarantee you will feel changed by this book. I literally could not put this book down. I was so consumed by it, which conveniently created an awesome diversion from my reality of the last 3 weeks. Sidebar: My mom is still in the hospital, although finally on the upswing. Being by her bedside brought such comfort so when she slept, I would read. My husband and Mom love to hear the synopsis of the books I read, so of course, they were both so intrigued because this is loosely adapted from a true story, they kept joking with me to hurry up and finish because they too, wanted to know Jack and Ma’s fate.
“I drove myself crazy looking at my watch and counting the seconds. Things spooked me, they seemed to get bigger or smaller while I was watching them, but if I looked away they started sliding. When he finally brought the TV, I left it on twenty-four/seven, stupid stuff, commercials for food I remembered, my mouth hurt watching it all. Sometimes I heard voices from the TV telling me things. “
Even halfway through this book, before I’d gotten to the twist, I was so engaged and haunted. I’ve been texting back and forth with some of the book club babes who have already stepped into ROOM; this is definitely a book you’ll want to discuss with friends immediately after!
“I keep messing up. I know you need me to be your Ma but I’m having to remember how to be me as well at the same time and it’s…”
I love the choices Donoghue made, and she is truly an artist of the written word. I felt like I was with Jack the entire time. Her ability to believably create a world where as the reader, we are seeing the world through Jack’s 5-year-old naive eyes, was done is such a genuine way. The first 20 pages or so, I was a bit thrown off by the ‘child-speak’ tone, I had to get my bearings. ROOM reminded me of Flowers for Algernon a bit. But once I sunk my teeth into the story, I didn’t notice the choppy language because it added so much depth to the story.
“I mean of course when I woke up in that shed, I thought nobody’d every had it as bad as me. But the thing is, slavery’s not a new invention. And solitary confinement- did you know, in America we’ve got more than twenty-five thousand prisoners in isolation cells? Some of them for more than twenty years. As for kids, there are places where babies lie in orphanages five to a cot with pacifiers taped into their mouths, kids getting raped by Daddy every night. Kids in prisons, whatever, making carpets till they go blind. “
Rich in intensity and naivete, the book is paced perfectly. Although I definitely finished ROOM wanting to know more and wanting to keep reading, Donoghue does such a perfect job of tying up the novel giving it a truly satisfying ending. I want to write so much more but a) I simply WILL not give anything away because I really want you to read ROOM!, and b) I’m so beyond exhausted and now must go pack for a week-long business trip.
46 down, 6 to go!
In progress- Anything But Typical