Jenny's Reviews > Room

Room by Emma Donoghue
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's review
Jun 12, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-in-2010, favorites

Room is such an amazingly unique read that I'm absolutely sure will be adored by many. It's perfect for those looking for something different to freshen up their reading. This book received an extensive amount of buzz at this year's BEA, was just recently short-listed for the Man Booker prize (yay!!) and it definitely lived up to the hype!

Room is narrated wholly by 5-year-old Jack who has lived his entire life in a small room with only a skylight and no windows. The room is kept locked by a keypad to which only "Old Nick" knows the code. Biologically, "Old Nick" is Jack's father. Jack, however, knows this man only as the elusive stranger who enters the room at night while Jack is sleeping in Wardrobe or brings them "Sunday treat" once a week based on their requests. The reader quickly learns that "Old Nick" kidnapped Jack's mother 7 years prior when she was 19-years-old, has kept her imprisoned in this tiny room for all those years, and fathered Jack.

Emma Donoghue extraordinarily accomplished the task of telling an entire story from the perspective of a 5-year-old child. Though other novels have been narrated by children, Room stands out in that the entire novel is narrated from Jack as his present 5-year-old self; never is there a point where his narration is from looking back on his life -- rather, his thoughts and perspectives illustrate the genuine experience of speaking to a young child. Furthermore, the innocence he possesses is on such a completely different level because of the extreme naivete gained from living his entire life in a 12 x 12 room, the only other human interaction being with his mother.

Shortly into Room, Jack's "Ma" devises a plan to escape. She fails to anticipate Jack's resistance, however, as he loves his life and can't imagine why his mother would want it to change. The reader can easily relate to "Ma's" frustration, as her ability to escape relies greatly on Jack's cooperation. While the author never specfically relays this it is assumed Ma has contemplated her plan for a while, waiting until Jack is old enough to understand and carry it out. Both her frustrations and those of Jack's are palpable and create genuine tension. I empathized with Jack for his lack of understanding, but also felt for the mother. How agonizing to finally believe escape is possible only to have the plan dwarfed by her seemingly all-knowing child.

Many elements of this story related to the well-known story of Jaycee Dugard, kidnapped at age 12 and imprisoned for 20 years during which she birthed 2 children. It's as though the author took this news story and contemplated what life must have been like for the children -- the only difference being that Ms. Dugard's children were sometimes exposed to the real world while Jack never was (except via television which Jack never really fully grasped anyway). On the one hand, Jack believed that everything in the television was fake (outside, supermarkets, etc.) yet, on the other hand, he believed the people were real and were speaking to him directly.

A significant element in the story was the relationship between mother and child. This was a powerful facet to the book; however, not any fault of the author's, I think this book will hit home on an even more powerful level for mothers who have sons of their own. While I could certainly empathize as I do with most books I read, I felt that I was missing out what would have had an even more crucial impact on me if I had children. This is not at all to say that those without children won't enjoy the book -- only that those who have experienced this bond may come away from reading this with just that much more.

In Room, Emma Donoghue simultaneously creates a heart-breaking and heart-warming read. Readers will love Jack as I did, and will be enraptured by the world he describes. Reading this book was truly an experience; relish the read because this is one of those that you'll wish you could read again for the first time.

Definitely plan on reading this book!!!

Taken from my blog at

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