The book “Room” was written by Emma Donoghue.
It’s a book that had me wanting to read it, but for some reason the jacket description wasn’t enough to make me want to purchase it. Also, the fact that it was a hard cover hindered me even more seeing as hard covers are usually more expensive and I had put myself on a strict book budget because my shelves runneth over. But my book club chose this book, which kind of gave me the green light to splurge on the hardcover (you know, since I had no choice – borrowing from the library is pretty much something I’m not willing to do).
As happy as I was to finally have a legit excuse to read this book, I’ve got to say that it took me awhile to get into it. I read the first twenty or so pages and then stopped reading it for a few weeks (also, life got in the way). The language was a little tough to wrap my, oh so intellectual, brain around. It dawned on me that this book was probably written in the voice of five-year old Jack when I read sentences such as, “Ma moves Bunny around real slow to better the picture with his ears and head,” or, “Ma does the hotting up on the two rings of Stove that go read, I’m not allowed touch the knobs because it’s Ma’s job to make sure there’s never a fire like in TV.” In translation? The first one reads, “Ma moves the antennae on the television around until the picture on the television is more clear,” and the second one reads, “Ma turns on the stove so we can cook our dinner.”
Like I said, it took me awhile to get used to this particular voice.
I do believe that telling this story in the voice of a five year old was a good choice. If you noticed in the two sentences above, there are some common nouns that are capitalized as if they were proper nouns. This is because Jack has almost, in a sense, humanized all the objects that were in this room in which he was born and raised. This room was all he knew. His mom (and Old Nick – the protagonist) were the only people he knew. That room and his mother were his life. He knew of nothing beyond that. So stove was not just an object; it was the proper name for the thing that “hots up” his food. Bunny didn’t just fix the picture on the television; it was a part of his life.
The gist of the story is that Old Nick is the person who abducts Jack’s mom. He hides her in this shed that he built specifically for someone he would keep prisoner. He takes her and eventually fathers two children with her (Jack and a stillbirth baby). He limits her world to four walls and a sky light. She tries to escape before Jack is born, but after Jack, her only tactic is survival. She is captured in this room for 7 years. To Jack, this room is his world. It’s all he knows. But to his mom, it is a prison cell. She keeps her spirits up for Jack and tries to make this be a regular life for him since this is her only option. Old Nick at least ensures that their basic needs are met.
Once Jack turns five, his mom starts telling him of the real world. She plots an escape with Jack as the hero. Fortunately, this five-year-old boy with no experience in the outside world pulls it off. The last half of the book is one where she becomes reacquainted with her old life and one where Jack needs to adjust to it.
This book continues to focus on Jack and his outlook on the situation. He finds himself missing Room as, in this (literally) big and scary world, it has become something of a security blanket for him. The book was well written (despite stupid me not realizing it was kid-speak at first). Emma Donoghue did a superb job at capturing all the raw emotion that one would definitely go through if placed in a situation such as this. It shows that in the end, Jack saved his mom … not the other way around. This book proves how strong and resilient one can be even if you don’t have a lot of experience with life. The human spirit is a tough one and it can overcome even the most horrific of events. If you believe in survival and making the most of what you have, then this book is for you.