Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Room, by Emma Donoghue, 2010, 321p
My Rating=4 Stars, Fiction
Source: Audio borrowed from the Library

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.

We discussed this at my book club this past month. It is such an interesting story to me. Written in a five-year-old's perspective, you understand what is going on without having to read the horrifying details. Jack's Ma was kidnapped when she was 19 years old and held captive for 7 years. Living in Room is the only existence he knows. They have a schedule and watch TV for a certain amount of time, get their exercise, read and nap. There's so much to say about this and it's hard without giving too many spoilers. You can tell from the summary that they escape and then have to deal with life outside Room. 

I can't imagine what Ma went through all those years. She lost her freedom and I'm amazed that she didn't lose her sanity. When you know what's on the outside and you're locked in a room for 7 years with no outside contact and 5 of those years you have a child with you every second of every single day, with no break, it seems like it would wear a person down. From what we learn later, though, it appears that having Jack gave her strength. Jack knew no other existence so life was great for him! He had his mother's attention and always felt loved and secure. 

Life on the outside is different than what Ma imagined it would be. She lost a lot of time and there were adjustments to be made. Her family had changed significantly and there were new members for her to meet. Her parenting came into question. I had a lot of sympathy for her. She was taken young and had no clue about motherhood and no one to turn to for advice. Some things made me cringe, but again, I don't know what I would do in the same situation. 

I've thought about this story quite a bit since I've finished listening to it. It's definitely not a fun, happy read, but it does hold your attention. Those who read it said it was hard to put down. It probably took me longer because the voice sounds like a 5-year-old and listening to what was going on in his head made me tired (and, yes, got a little annoying) and I'd have to take a break. There are some other adult voices which helped to break that up, so take that as a warning if you decide to listen to it.

I finished this about the time the three women were found in Ohio after being missing for ten years and one of them had a 6-year-old daughter so I almost felt like I had read part of their story (without the gruesome details and from the little bit we do know, they had it way worse than the main character in this book). I was so happy for those women and hope they're adjusting back into the outside world without too much difficulty. If this type of book sounds interesting to you, it's definitely worth reading.


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