Book Review Wednesday: Room (Emma Donoghue) 5 Stars

Posted: September 30, 2015 in Book Reviews
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This is a dark story of a kidnapped girl told from the point of view of her five year old son. As such, there are difficult moments in this book, but nothing too graphic. The mother protects her son well, and so we are protected from most of it. Most of the worst bits are hints in the background that Jack doesn’t understand, but we as readers do.

Here’s the blurb:

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.

There are three main parts: first we see Jack and Ma’s life in the room, then the dramatic escape, and last the recovery process.

The psychology behind it all is what interested me the most. Jack calls all the things in Room by name. They’re his friends. He believes that’s all there is to the world. That beyond Room’s walls there’s nothing else. His refusal to believe otherwise, while understandable was shocking.

Jack and Ma have a loving relationship, but a slightly unhealthy one. Note: I am not talking about her still breastfeeding him. Children are physically designed to breastfeed until around five. It’s the early weaning we have in first world countries that is unnatural. They also spend all their time together, which again is not unhealthy (though it would be more healthy for him to interact with other people as well).

The unhealthy aspect of their relationship was that in the past she had obviously suffered a lot and reacted to herself negatively. Jack’s picked up on this, and while he loves her, he sometimes thinks of her as stupid and calls her that. She agrees with him.

I won’t mention details of the second part, but it was very harrowing. The first part is slow, but rich. We’re trying to orientate ourselves with their lives. The second part is pure tension.

Then comes the recovery process. I can’t express how glad I am that the author devoted such a big chunk of the book to this. Often it gets forgotten, but adjusting back to the real world and recovering is a big deal for both characters.

Their recovery is not a straight line. Jack has to cope with so many new things. Can you imagine never having worn shoes, or walked on grass, or been everywhere but one room? Places smell. People smell. Things are noisy. People are confusing.

The author has clearly thought through the things that would happen to Jack. No one understands his speech, because of course he’s never spoken to anyone apart from his mother. He doesn’t understand a lot of phrases. He doesn’t understand a lot of things in the world we take for granted, like how everyone is so worried about time. He interacts with another child for a second, and instantly he thinks they’re his best friend and he loves them.

This is not an action packed book, but there’s plenty going on as Jack faces his new challenges. It’s a neat, emotional journey and definitely deserves the awards and nominations it received. In the end things aren’t perfect. Neither Jack nor Ma are one hundred percent Ok. They might never be. But they’re better than they were, and they’re making plans for the future.

I’m so happy the author didn’t try to go for a picture perfect ending. They still have a long journey ahead of them, and I’m glad the author understands the material enough to acknowledge that.

Emotional book, interesting pov, and well researched. Watching Jack slowly get to grips with the outside world after that tiny room is like taking a deep breath of fresh air. The whole energy of the writing changes. Five stars from me.

For more reviews of this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7937843-room

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