Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue
Series: N/A
Pages: 321
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Publishing Date: September 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Library

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.

My Review:
Room was a bit outside of my comfort zone...reading-wise at least. If it doesn't have magic, swords, vampires, or something else paranormal...well...chances are that I won't be that into it. Literary fiction is especially iffy, because I hate it when people tell me that something is "worthwhile" something that isn't "literary" isn't worth reading? the same time, there was a ton of hype about this book a few months ago and I was honestly curious about the premise. There was all that hoopla when Elizabeth Smart was found and kidnapping and captive love-slaves are always something that holds the attention of the masses so I figured Room could be definitely worth picking up, and truly, Room held my attention from page one. It wasn't quite a one-sitter, but it was close.

Room is about a mother and her child living in an 11x11 room. The story is told entirely from the perspective of Jack, the son, and all he knows are the four walls and the few things that exist between them. You don't know why he doesn't know so much in the beginning or why he talks so poorly, but clues keep popping up, leaving you with a growing sense of unease until you know for a fact, that this woman has been kidnapped, raped, and raised a child in captivity. The horror of that realization alone is terrible, but then when you think of the life that Jack has lived, not knowing anyone other than his mom and "Old Nick"...not knowing that the things he sees on TV are real or that there is an entire world outside what he knows as Room....the story just becomes so real that it is unlike anything I've read in a good long time.  Jack's "Ma" has done the best she can with her situation, and Jack loves her, but she knows that Jack deserves more so she plans and finally comes up with an escape attempt that shakes up the story like crazy.

The escape scenes were some of the most terrifying things that I've ever read. There's nothing like a scared, traumatized 5 year old boy experiencing the world for the first time while running from his rapist father down a darkened street at night to get you all riled-up and in protective mommy-mode. I swear I wanted to take a golf-club to Old Nick myself if he hurt one little hair on Jack's head. Poor Jack doesn't know anything about the insane world that he's found himself in, and is still struggling to deal with the fact that the world is so big after thinking it was 11 square ft for so long. Jack doesn't know that Police are friendly, or that dogs can bite, or anything, and he's being pursued by a man who's entire life is staked on keeping Jack from reaching anyone who can help...O.M.G it was awful...

Jack's way of speaking and looking at the world is a little jarring at first. I admit that I thought it would be tough to read his childish and clumsy sentences...he had never been formally educated so they were choppy and wrong in addition to childish...and it was kind of trying on my patience at first. But as I read I realized that the way he talks is instrumental in getting a feel for the room and the situation that Jack and his mom have found themselves in. It was a truly horrific thing and to be told through the eyes of someone so innocent was as heart-wrenching as I think you could get. The story just wouldn't have the same feel if it was told in any other way, even through the eyes of Ma. 
I give Room 4 Keys. It was like nothing I've ever read before and really knew how to play on the hearts of mothers, and just people with souls everywhere. I was engaged in the struggles of this poor little family the entire time I was reading and I just couldn't put the thing down until the very last page. Still, by the end Jack's rambling, childish point of view was really getting to me and the plot seemed to taper off as well instead of growing to something amazing. I enjoyed Room a lot but can't find it within me to give it 5 keys. was definitely one of the best books of a Literary Fiction genre that I have read and if you can get over the horror of kidnapping and captivity then you should definitely check this one out.


  1. I have been wanting to read this book for a while. I am so glad you enjoyed it. Great review, Andra! :D

  2. I'm glad you reviewed this. I've had this book for awhile and just haven't had the time/want to start it. I think I might give it a try ;)