Thursday, September 13, 2012

Room by Emma Donoghue

Title: Room: A Novel
  • Classification: Adult Fiction
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
  • Format: Paperback, 384 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 25, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0316223239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316223232
  • Author's Website:

     "Do I still have a Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Paul?"
     "Yeah," says Ma, she smiles a bit...
     "Can they come here sometime for real?"
     "I wish they could," she says. "I pray for it so hard, every night."...
     "They're wishing it too,"she says, "but they don't know where I am."
     "You're in Room with me."
     "But they don't know where it is, and they don't know about you at all."
     That's weird."They could look on Dora's Map, and when they come I could pop out at them for a surprise."
     Ma nearly laughs but not quite. "Room's not on any map."...
     “We’re like people in a book, and he won’t let anybody else read it.”  
   "He thinks we're things that belong to him, because Room does."

How do you tell a five year old child that the place he's lived in for his entire life is just a sliver of what truly exists? That there is an outside world beyond the 11 x 11 foot room you live in? How do you tell him you were abducted years before he was born and the man who visits in the middle of the night and brings your groceries and supplies is your abductor? How do you explain you need to escape, and he'll need to help? 

In Room, told through the perspective of five year old Jack, his mother attempts to do just that.  

This was such a heart-wrenching tale that truly touches your soul because you know things like this happen in real life. Case in point, Jaycee Lee Dugard, Natascha Kampusch, and Elizabeth Smart were all victims of similar crimes. It's truly horrible to think there are people out there who would do something like this to another human being, but I admire each of these woman for going on with their lives and hope nothing but the best for them in the future. If anyone deserves the best or a happy ending, they do after all they had to endure.

There are many things I liked about this book. I liked how the book was told from Jack's perspective. It made the whole situation easier to take in because while Jack is smart and sees things, he doesn't quite comprehend what's happening. It gives you a slightly blurred view that softens some of the harsher more blunt edges of what you see.

I liked how the author incorporated Dora the Explorer, the TV show, into the story making Jack's understanding of things a little easier. How could you make a 5 year old whose never had to share anything understand what stealing is? Swiper, the cartoon fox who swipes/steals things, helps Jack comprehend what his mother is telling him. Old Nick, the name they call their abductor, stole his mom like Swiper steals things. Jack makes the connections on his own, and in doing so, you realize just how intelligent he truly is. You can't help but be moved by this scared yet brave little boy.

I loved how the author went beyond the point of where the rescue takes place, and continued the tale a bit farther, letting us know you don't get saved and everything is magically fine. Somethings things take time to heal and may never heal completely. I liked how they showed his mother had issues and needed to cope with everything. There is no way a person could come out of that kind of experience unaffected. Which brings me to the one thing I disliked about the book, not only was Jack's mother affected by the events which transpired, but so was Jack. He saw his mother abused, he saw his mother depressed, he saved his mother more than once and no one thought to put the poor child into counseling? No matter how resilient a child can be, I very much doubt he was unaffected. I was a little miffed this wasn't addressed in the book. Additionally, his whole world had expanded from three people and an 11x11 foot room to an infinitely larger place. To adjust from being in such a controlled environment to one that seems to have no boundaries could not be easy. I think he'd be a bit overwhelmed and could have used someone to discuss how he felt.

Overall I gave the book 4 out of 5 roses. I thought the book was well written, and I liked the uniqueness of the story being told from Jack's point of view. At times the author gave Jack an understanding of things that seemed beyond his years, but I chalked it up to how sometimes kids can surprise you. I got emotionally attached to Jack and his mom and loved the way Jack's mother attempted to do what she could to ensure he had as normal a life as one could in such a wretched environment. Not only was Jack something special, but so was his mom who would have done anything she could to keep him safe. A dark yet emotionally moving tale about survival and perseverance. I'll end this review with one of my favorite quotes and one of my favorite scenes:

- 'In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time...In Room me and Ma had time for everything. I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter over all the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there's only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit.'

- We step in Door and it's all wrong. Smaller than Room and emptier and it smells weird...
  "I don't think this is it," I whisper to Ma.
  "Yeah, it is."
  Our voices don't sound like us. "Has it got shrunk?"
  "No, it was always like this."...
  I guess this really was Room one time. "But not anymore," I tell Ma.
  "It's not Room now."
  "You think so?" She sniffs. "It used to smell even staler. The door's open now, of course.
  Maybe that's it. "Maybe it's not Room if Door's open."
  Ma does a tiny smile. "Do you--?" She clears her throat. "Would you like the door closed for a minute?"

Notes to keep you in the know:
Natascha Kampusch, who was held in a cellar for 8 years by a man until she finally escaped. Here's a link to an article about her ordeal. It's not for the faint of heart because the Natascha goes into detail about her imprisonment:

Here's an article about Jaycee Lee Dugard who was held for 18 years and had two children by her abductor before she was finally rescued:

Here's an article about Elizabeth Smart, who was stolen from her bedroom and held for 9 months:

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