Saturday, February 12, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue (CBR-III #10)

Cannonball Read III: Book #10/52
Published: 2010
Pages: 336 (3,785 total so far)
Genre: Adult Fiction

I kept putting off reading Room because I didn't think I'd be able to stand the fact that is is written in the voice of a five-year-old. However, I figured since I made it through Precious (which is written in the voice of an illiterate teenager), then I could probably handle Room. It helped that I've read so many positive reviews as well.

Room is told through the eyes of Jack, a five-year-old boy who has lived his entire life inside Room (he refers to everything as Room, Rug, Bed, since he has no sense of anything beyond the one room). His mother, known only as "Ma", has done her best to shield him from the situation they are in. Ma was kidnapped by a man Jack calls "Old Nick" when she was only nineteen. For the past seven years, she has been held captive in a backyard shed-turned-prison. The room has all the basic necessities such as a bathtub, toilet, bed, and a small kitchen, as well as a small TV, which is all Jack knows about "Outside".

When Jack turns five, Ma decides that he's old enough (and asking too many questions she can't answer) to know the truth. Prior, she had told him that everything on TV was fantasy and their room was the only reality. Jack has a hard time grasping the reality of "Outside", but eventually he agrees to help Ma start planning their escape.

(possible spoilers ahead)

However, only half the book takes place in the room. The rest takes place after their escape/rescue and how Jack adjusts to a world he's never seen. It's hard to imagine what it would be like to have never seen grass or trees anywhere other than on TV, but you really felt Jack's sense of wonder (and fear) about everything he encountered. Jack has to adjust to everything from the sunlight to grandparents that didn't even know he existed. Ma has quite a bit of adjusting to do as well, but it's mostly focused on Jack.

(end spoilers)

Based loosely on the Josef Fritzl case, I thought this book was very thorough and well done. The characters were sympathetic and well-rounded. Ma tries to be strong for Jack, but in reality she was just a kid herself when she was taken by Old Nick. Some days she can't even get out of bed and Jack has to fend for himself. I was also impressed that Emma Donoghue somehow managed to make Jack sound like a child without the dialogue turning TOO simple to where it turns off adult readers.

I'd rate Room as 4/5 stars. Definitely worth reading.

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