By Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown, and Company September 2010
I may be the last person on earth to read this book. If you are groaning while reading this because this is the 4,268th review of this book you have found on the blogosphere, I am very sorry. Bear with me – I promise to have some newer books and older, less popular books soon.
It’s Jack’s fifth birthday. Like many other children, his mother gives him a present and they have cake together to celebrate. Unlike other kids, Jack sleeps in a wardrobe. Jack has never been outside. Jack has only seen two people in his whole life. Jack and his mother live in Room – a storage shed in the backyard of the man who kidnapped his mother as a teenager. As Jack becomes more inquisitive, his mother decides that it is finally time to tell him the truth about their circumstances and plan a daring escape.
This book will blow your mind and break your heart. Emma Donoghue takes us into the mind of a little boy whose whole life exists in an 11 x 11 room with stunning specificity. Jack is our narrator and reading his revelations about ‘Room’ and the real existence of ‘Outside’ is stunning. “Before I didn’t even know to be mad that we can’t open Door, my head was too small to have Outside in it. When I was a little kid I thought like a little kid, but now I’m five I know everything.”
While it may seem difficult for an author to grasp what this experience would be like for a small child, I think Jack was the perfect choice for the narrator. His journey from ‘normal life’ in Room to understanding the bizarre nature of his situation to his (Spoiler Alert!) very difficult time acclimating to the ‘Outside’ rings very true. After all, at its heart, this is the story of a mother’s fierce love for her child and a child’s devotion to his mom. “We know each other without looking, don’t we?”
Jack’s Ma does an extraordinary job of loving on her little boy in a strange and terrifying environment. As a mother who has endless resources at her disposal to teach and entertain my child, I was amazed at the creativity that Ma displays in using their limited supplies to help her child learn and grow. Their captor ‘Old Nick’ appears only rarely and I think this is a smart choice. There is no way to humanize a man who kidnaps a nineteen year old girl to rape her and then holds her, and their son, in a storage shed for seven years.
I don’t know that this is the kind of book that one can categorize as good. It’s often hard to read and the knowledge that Ms. Donoghue got her idea from real life events is horrifying. If like me, you somehow had not read this book yet, I urge you to pick it up as soon as you can. (If say, you’ve been on the library reserve list for a whole year, but every time your name comes up, you can’t seem to get to the library, and end up back at the end of the line….but maybe that’s just me.) This book will stay with you for a long time.
*Note - I was greatly remiss in forgetting to mention that yesterday's meme "It's Monday, What Are You Reading?" was created and is sponsored by the amazing Sheila of Book Journey. I love the way that she brings book bloggers together and I am psyched to participate in her Banned Books Week coming up at the end of this month!