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Room, Emma Donoghue (2010)

Pick up Room when you have a day with nowhere to go. Room pulls you right in–you won’t want to put it down.  I started reading it at about 10pm, and by around 1:30 I was exhausted…so I skipped ahead to read the key spoilers, and was able to sleep for about 6 hours, only to wake up and pick the book right up again (and not put it down until I was done).

Room is told by 5 year old Jack, who was born in and lives in an 11 by 11 shed–Room– with his mother, “Ma”.  “Old Nick” kidnapped Ma seven years ago, and imprisoned her in Room.  Jack has never been outside of Room, and to keep her son as sane and stable as she can, Ma teaches him that there is nothing outside of Room.  Eventually, they reach their breaking point, and something has to change.  I can’t say anything more about the plot without giving the whole thing away.

I worried that the narration from Jack’s point of view would quickly become a tired novelty.  It doesn’t.  At times the language seems more mature than a five year old’s language, and at times it seems less mature…but children frequently seem older or younger than they are, so I suppose that quality made Jack’s voice more realistic. Writing from Jack’s voice is a unique approach.  I felt that it made a horrible and terrifying situation less terrifying, and more human.

I was surprised how my identification with certain characters changed throughout the novel.  There was one theme in the beginning of the novel that I had a negative opinion about, but as the plot and characters developed, I ended up having a very strong positive, and protective feeling about by the end.  I wish I could share more details, but this book is driven by its surprises, and saying anything more would ruin it.

Room doesn’t dwell on the horror of Ma and Jack’s circumstances.  It is more concerned with them as people, and their reslience.  The book is rich with discussion fodder.
Themes about parenting frequently inspire only judgment, but in this book provides an opportunity to not only non-judgmentally discuss parenting, but also reflect on the judgment we cast on other parents.  I was especially interested in some of the side characters.  As the book progressed, I became increasingly protective over and defensive toward Ma and Jack, and certain side characters would stir up intense anger and frustration.

Room is Donoghue’s seventh novel.  I’m interested in going back to read her earlier work.  She’s a skilled and creative writer, so I’m excited to see what her other books have in store.

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