Emma Donoghue/ Fiction
Publisher- Little Brown and Company
[★-lost me ★★-average ★★★-worth a read ★★★★-excellent ★★★★★-amazing]
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.
When the movie Room released in 2015, the literary world scrambled to find and read the book on which the critically acclaimed movie was based. Told from the point of view of a five year old boy Jack, who has lived all his life in a 12 foot small room with Ma. He washed with clothes, ate cereals for lunch and, had a favourite in Dora the Explorer and Danny the Digger, learnt rhymes such as Little JackerJack, thought that princes’ name were only Prince JackerJacks, asked for Sundaytreat and slept in Wardrobe at night when Old Nick visited, and breastfed from Ma whenever he felt like. His and Ma’s only connection with any other world is through TV, though Jack thinks that the people on TV are on planets different from his own. When he turns five, Ma tries telling him that she was kidnapped at the age of 19 by Old Nick and they need to escape, and that will require bravery and courage from Jack’s side, but Jack’s mind cannot fathom a world where airplanes, skyscrapers, doctors, oceans and seas exist.
With a lot of bravery, Ma convinces Jack to help them escape which will require him to act dead, run away from Old Nick’s pick-up truck when he goes to bury him and tell anyone he meets of his predicament. Out of his love for Ma, Jack agrees to do this, but he can’t live away from Room, which has been home for him. Room is both a jail and a haven.
In the real world, Outside, as Jack calls it, he is lonely, scared of so many people, afraid of the wind and sunshine, doesn’t get what all the fuss is about, can’t understand why there will be more people named Jack out there, and how Ma’s name is not Ma but Sharon. There’s a lot to manage — the external, vivid, social world is a huge and gratifying resource here, and Jack’s eyes remake the familiar. It is invigorating, watching him learn, and the way Donoghue reveals the consequences of Room through her attention to detail is tremendous. But in a world where bed is Bed and outside is Outside, I thought anxiety might be Anxiety, and somewhat harder to resolve. Part of Jack’s appeal is that heightened kindness in him, and if his wonder is 10 times larger, so might have been the resolutions of his internal struggles and regressions. On the other hand, Ma is struggling with her newfound equation with her parents, a mother who lives with another man and a father who lives in Australia, after her disappearance 7 years ago caused them apart, her status as a celebrity and her concern for Jack to stay away from the limelight. How do they cope? Will they live a normal life, after all that has happened?
The characters feel real, though Jack sometimes is annoying and gets on your nerves, though I think every is annoying like that. I marvel at Ma’s patience and Jack’s bravery. But the reading can get a bit tedious at times, with a long of things getting repeated over and over again. A one-time read, at most.
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