Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Review: Room

I've certainly heard the buzz about Emma Donahue's book, Room. I was thrilled to find it in audio form just as I was in need of a new book to begin while walking on the treadmill. My husband happened to be in the exercise room when I started and he gave me quite the look, since the narrator is a five-year-old boy ... highly expressive, but five-years-old nonetheless. I had to explain to him later about the book and the plot line.

Five year old Jack and his Ma live in an 11x11 foot room. It is all Jack has ever known. It is his fifth birthday and he is processing all the things about his special day. Slowly, his Ma begins to explain more about their life than he has ever heard before. He is under the impression that the things on TV are not real. Anything outside of the room is, to him, outer space. She begins to acknowledge that there is a real world outside the doors of their prison. She explains that she used to live with her own Ma in a house with a hammock out back, but when she was nineteen and headed to a class at college, a man tricked her into his truck by claiming to need some help with his dog. The man, someone Jack calls "Old Nick," brings them things they need and accepts their list of requests for "Sunday treat." Every night, Ma hides Jack away in Wardrobe so that he has very little association with "Old Nick." But she begins to realize they cannot survive in this way for very much longer. For one, Old Nick has lost his job, and for another, she cannot imagine keeping the boy safe from their captor for too much longer. Something has to change and they must come up with a plan to make it happen.

While this novel was intensely riveting (I could barely tear myself away from listening), it was also deeply disturbing (mostly because the story was entirely believable and based on things which have tragically happened in our world). I think the most clever aspect of this novel was its point of view. Telling the story from the perspective of the five-year-old was genius, even if it must have been difficult to communicate all that needed to be said. The chosen narrator was the unique angle which led to the book's success, in my opinion.

At first, I found the voice of the child to be a bit grating, but the deeper I got into the story, the more eager I was to glean his perspective and to approach the sad tale from the eyes of a child. I don't want to give away any significant bits of the story-line (a difficult task when there is really so much I could say about the midway point and the end of the tale). Several points in the book were truly terrifying as I wondered what would happen to this poor mother and child. It was also interesting to explore the nature of the mother-child bond, both for mothers in bondage and those in normal life. (The author actually admits that the germ of the story arose from her own experience with the sometimes suffocating nature of motherhood.) Suffice it to say, I would read it again and would recommend it to others as an engrossing read.

I did search for information about other books by this author and found that none of the rest of the books sound even slightly interesting to me. This may be the only book I will attempt from this author. Still, I'm glad to have read it and to have submerged myself in this maddening story, if for only a short while.

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