Jessica's Reviews > Room

Room by Emma Donoghue
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Feb 14, 2011

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Read in February, 2011

There's something about driving 14 hours to Missouri with two toddlers in tow that gave me special appreciation for Room by Emma Donoghue. It's told from the point of view of a happy-go-lucky 5 year old named Jack, who has been living in a single room with his mother (Ma) since his birth. Unbeknownst to Jack, his mother was abducted when she was 19 and has been held as a sexual hostage ever since; Jack is the offspring of Ma and her captor. As the book opens, Jack is turning five and is convinced that the whole world exists within the confines of his room; to him, all that is beyond is "outer space" or "tv" (that is, not real), but Ma begins to reorient his understanding of the world in which they live as the book unfolds.

Donoghue builds an evocative and heart-wrenching picture of Jack and Ma's life together in their room. Their eventual escape is harrowing - certainly one of the best scenes of the book. Jack's understanding of the world around him is poignant but never maudlin. At its best, the book is also funny in unexpected ways. For the most part, Donoghue creates a world and characters that are eminently believeable. I do wish that Ma had been more finely drawn - we get promising glimpses of her thoughts and experience, but of course telling it from Jack's point of view really limits Donoghue's possibilities (maybe try the Faulkner route next time, Emma). I also wish that there had been at least one character besides Ma who seemed truly interested in Jack and his experiences - for the most part, the family members and others who Jack encounters in his post-Room life are all completely flat, shallow, or deeply flawed. Clearly, Donoghue enjoyed creating the world of Room best, because that is where the delicate and detailed work of the lives she created truly shines (although at times, the life in Room moves too slowly, and the life beyond Room moves too quickly). The final scene of the book was a bit abrupt and I doubted its authencity, something that I didn't question throughout the rest of the work.

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Paula I actually loved the imperfection of the extended family. I appreciated that grandma bumbled her way through all if it and at times was insensitive due to her own frustration of the situation. There were moments that I wanted to shake all of the extended family but it's also what made me like them. They were normal people clearly lacking the tools to deal with the situation. I can understand their frustration as a result of their inability to do the right thing and to really wrap their minds around the full impact of being locked away for years.

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