ROOM by Emma Donoghue

Book Quote:

“Lots of TV is made-up pictures – like Dora’s, just a drawing – but the people, the ones with faces that look like you and me, they’re real.”

“Actual humans?”

She nods. “And the places are real too, like farms and forests and airplanes and cities…”

“Nah.” Why is she tricking me? “Where would they fit?”

“Out there,” says Ma. “Outside. ” She jerks her head back.

“Outside Bed Wall?” I stare at it.

“Outside Room.”

Book Review:

Review by Jill I. Shtulman (SEP 18, 2010)

Emma Donoghue is not afraid of making bold choices. Her first is the narrative voice she adapts in this novel: that of five-year-old Jack, a young boy who was born and has lived his entire life in an 11-foot by 11-foot room. One might think the voice would eventually become cloying or overly precious or manipulative or downright tiring. But it never does.

Jack is an innocent, an imaginative child, whose mother was spirited away by an abductor (called Old Nick) when she was returning home from her college library. She has lived in Room ever since – for seven long years – and gave birth to Jack, the son of her abductor, within Room (a sound-proofed, lead-lined backyard shed).  And she has tried her best to fashion a life for him there, creating innovative games — from the Scream (done once a day), to Labyrinth and Fort and Bouncy Bunny. Together, Ma and Jack have created characters out of all aspects of Room – Rug, Plant, Wardrobe, Stove – watch the world on their small T.V. set, and devote every ounce of energy to each other.

The horror of this confinement is racheted up through Jack’s simplistic view of the Room, which to him, constitutes the world. He hides in Wardrobe at night and times Old Nick’s visits by counting the number of creaks in the bed. He senses when Ma is “Gone”–depressed and withdrawn — and yet can’t quite reason out why. But Ma is more attuned to the threats: she knows that as Jack ages, he is in increasing danger and that his budding curiosity will eventually cause him fatal harm.

Eventually choices are made and freedom comes, but at a cost. And when it does, Ms. Donoghue develops some bold and powerful themes: is the Room we know safer than the World Outside? Is it better to have multiple choices or just a restrictive few? Are we all confined in a Room of our making – even when we choose freedom or have it thrust upon us – or will we eventually find the strength to break out?

As Jack yearns for the security and predictability of Room, Ma tells him, “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…” The scariest thing for Ma is the fear that Room has obliterated who she really is. And for Jack? The scariest thing is a world without being the core of Ma’s universe.

This riveting book – a book I easily place in my Top Five of the year – goes far beyond the victim-and-survivor tale. It’s an amazing and sensitive look about a mother’s love, a study of a “stranger in a strange land,” a tale that displays the power of survival, and an indictment of a society that has lost the ability to empathize with those who are hurting (Ms. Donoghue’s wickedly humorous look at the media and its over-the-top rhetoric is reason enough to buy Room.) Most of all, it’s a careful examination of how we can take the most heinous circumstances and painstakingly extract something of beauty and value.

I cannot praise Room enough. It’s a triumph of story-telling filled with crackling dialogue, thought-provoking themes, and a page-turning quality that won’t let you stop until you reach the last page.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 2.179 readers
PUBLISHER: Little, Brown and Company (September 13, 2010)
REVIEWER: Jill I. Shtulman
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Another unique narrative:



September 18, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Commonwealth Prize, Contemporary, Unique Narrative, y Award Winning Author

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.