Q & A with Emma Donoghue discussion

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Spoiler-friendly Discussion of Room

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message 1: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
This is the thread to discuss Room without concern for spoiling events in the second half of the book. If you haven't yet read Room, you'll want to stay out of this thread.


message 2: by Diane (new)

Diane  (dianedj) | 3 comments I was so happy with the way you chose end Room. To me, there was complete closure for Jack and for Ma (by going back to Room), and for me as a reader because Ma did go back to Room with Jack. Having it end this way, rather than go on to Old Nick's trial, was perfect.

I also very much admired your writing style, in that you were able to get across the anguish and horror of Ma's life while being held captive, but without any explicit violent or sexual details. So well done, Ms. Donoghue.


message 3: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 2 comments Beautifully complex handling of Ma as she is set free and begins to reacclaimate. Were your intentions to have your readers feel anger, sadness and confusion along with her? I felt all of that...mostly directed toward her, and it took some interesting turns in my head to sort it all out!

I really struggled with mixed feeling about her reactions; i.e., the selfishness that I thought she displayed and unkindness towards others in her anger, particularly in isolating Jack and punishing him more than was needed.

It was understandable that she needed to take the route she took to save herself, eventually; but, as a young mother widowed with 3 children under the ages of 9, I could never have taken that kind of self-centered stance with our disasterous loss. I think that's why I resented her choices even to the end, and I wonder if they were realistic given what I know about most mothers. Thank God for his grandparents! LOL In retrospect, what do you think?


message 4: by Daniel (last edited Mar 18, 2011 02:56PM) (new)

Daniel Rock | 1 comments Thank you for this book. I have rarely had the emotional reaction to books that I had toward this one. Jack and Ma live in this hybrid world of normalcy and horror that many people who suffer for various reasons confront daily. In the face of sadness and pain, people have a way of instinctively shouldering the burden for those theylove. That is what most mothers do, just not to the extreme of Ma.


Since what makes the novel so profound (to me) is the narrative voice of Jack. How hard was it to make it so real and yet not interfere with the narrative arc of the story?


message 5: by H.E. (new)

H.E. Saunders (hesaunders) | 3 comments I have to say that one of my favorite moments in the book is when she's on the talk show and the talk show host makes a big deal about her nursing Jack even though he's so old. I thought it was a great way to address that issue with readers (I was certainly thinking it) while making it a realistic conversation with the host. I think questions like this did a great job showing how alienated from the world Ma was after her experiences. How did you gain Ma's persepective for this section of the book? Did you speak with any pedophile/assault victims?


message 6: by Christine (new)

Christine Stanley | 1 comments Having followed, in the media, the true stories the Austrian and American abduction & imprisonment cases I admire the way in which you explored the situation from the POV of the child, for whom this life was normal. I didn't get any sense of horror or even much fear. The child's experience of Old Nick was based on his mother's reactions which Jack interpreted and sometimes misconstrued. Bearing in mind the real life experiences of such children, was your construction of Jack pure speculation?


message 7: by Spacey (new)

Spacey Diane D. wrote: "I was so happy with the way you chose end Room. To me, there was complete closure for Jack and for Ma (by going back to Room), and for me as a reader because Ma did go back to Room ..."

I totally agree with this.

I think the end was able to offer closure for Jack. Without his return to Room it wouldn't have happened, since Room was his entire world for 5 years. It portrayed the sacrifices a parent would make for their child (ie. facing something so emotionally charged just so Jack can have closure on Room).


message 8: by Linda (new)

Linda (mspianobug) I also felt that the ending was perfect. The book brought us to extreme tension and then let us down slowly to a positive end.

Children only know what they live through. There are terrible abuse cases where the children think everything is fine and normal. I thought that Ma gave Jack the best childhood that she could under the worst circumstances and taking into consideration that Old Nick was the father.

I believe that Ms. Donahue has children and has payed very careful attention to how they think, act, and talk.


message 9: by Amanda (new)

Amanda (amandar) | 10 comments I also enjoyed the ending but I thought the most important part of that ending was Jack's reaction to being in Room again and allowing the reader to see that he has already "outgrown" it. I think had his reaction been different, that closure wouldn't have been as complete.

I had some issues with the grandparents but have come to terms with their reactions. They got their daughter back from the dead (so to speak) but along with her, they also are confronted with Jack who is a living part of Old Nick. How difficult it would be to love a piece of something that has brought you so much pain.

I was slightly disappointed in the tabloid's articles that Jack reads. It didn't seem realistic to me how they portrayed Jack. I doubt even a gossip magazine would have the nerve to refer to a child who lived in captivity as monkey-like (I don't remember the exact wording).

I really liked how Jack takes in the world. His observation of how parents treat their kids was very moving to me. I have been trying harder to be more patient and in tune with my little boy after reading that.

Overall, I was more emotionally invested in this book than most others. I really enjoyed the journey Jack and Ma take. Jack adjusted so well to the "real" world, more so than I expected.


message 10: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Manus (kdemanus) | 5 comments I found it interesting that as I was reading Room I drew a mental picture of what Ma and Jack look like. However, once they got out, that image was shattered. Was that intentional? Before they got out I wasn't distracted by Ma's missing teeth nor did I think about the paleness of their skin or their lack of muscle development, but once they were in the 'real world' I saw how shocking their appearance must have been. Again, was that shock intentional?


message 11: by Kyle (new)

Kyle | 1 comments Hello- I was just curious whether you had always intended to keep the charachter of "Ma" alive? Did you think about letting her pass away either by the hands of Old Nick or by her overdose?


message 12: by Karen (new)

Karen (karenf) | 5 comments Your insight was great and I wonder how you would go about researching such a book. For example, the fact that Jack could not negotiate the stairs, I thought that was brilliant.


message 13: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Diane D. wrote: "I was so happy with the way you chose end Room. To me, there was complete closure for Jack and for Ma (by going back to Room), and for me as a reader because Ma did go back to Room ..."
Going as far as the trial would have (a) made it more like traditional crime fiction, and (b) put the emphasis on what Old Nick did to them, rather than on Jack's childhood with Ma. I thought the best way to truly banish him was to let him drop out of the story in the second half, although of course he lingers in Ma and Jack's minds.


message 14: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "Your insight was great and I wonder how you would go about researching such a book. For example, the fact that Jack could not negotiate the stairs, I thought that was brilliant."

There are no real Jacks out there - by which I mean that the few kids who have been raised in that kind of locked-room situation have usually experienced other bad things as well (such as, for instance, oxygen deprivation in the Fritzls' dungeon). Room is a best-case-scenario. So to research it, I read about all kinds of situations which have perhaps one thing in common with Jack's (from births in concentration camps, to 'feral children', to autistic children overwhelmed by a noisy world), then extrapolated. The stairs problem is an example of an idea that comes easily as soon as you sit down, stare into space, and imagine being your character, living in their body.


message 15: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Amanda wrote: "I also enjoyed the ending but I thought the most important part of that ending was Jack's reaction to being in Room again and allowing the reader to see that he has already "outgrown" it. I think h..."

In my readings about the various real-life kidnapping cases, I was frequently appalled by the media responses to them - from voyeuristic tv interviews to tabloid schlock. I really don't think I exaggerated any of it...


message 16: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Kathy wrote: "I found it interesting that as I was reading Room I drew a mental picture of what Ma and Jack look like. However, once they got out, that image was shattered. Was that intentional? Before they got ..."

Absolutely. My children don't see my wrinkles or my squishy belly in a critical way; I'm beautiful to them just because I'm Mum. So Jack and Ma don't describe each other the way the world does. I wanted to show that any culture (even a little tribal culture of two) has its own norms, and it's only when Jack and Ma come outside that they are forced to perceive themselves as weird or disabled in any way.


message 17: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Kyle wrote: "Hello- I was just curious whether you had always intended to keep the charachter of "Ma" alive? Did you think about letting her pass away either by the hands of Old Nick or by her overdose?"
No, I was aware that readers might think I was going to let Ma die, because of the long tradition of mothers (and women more generally) sacrificed so that the hero can live - think of Westerns, or a film like BETTY BLUE - but I never considered it. I'm interested in the complexity of parenthood, the way it can feel like a sacrifice and a reward at the very same time... but no, I wasn't interested in the kill-the-girl plot.


message 18: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Christine wrote: "Having followed, in the media, the true stories the Austrian and American abduction & imprisonment cases I admire the way in which you explored the situation from the POV of the child, for whom thi..."
I didn't based the story of ROOM closely on any real case, but yes, there are examples aplenty of children accepting the weird situations they live in as normal or OK. I think parenting always involves loving lies, from Santa Claus to 'let me kiss your boo-boo better'.


message 19: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
H.E. wrote: "I have to say that one of my favorite moments in the book is when she's on the talk show and the talk show host makes a big deal about her nursing Jack even though he's so old. I thought it was a g..."

Re: nursing, I'm glad you liked that bit. I've only nursed to 16 months myself but I have a friend who's nursed her five-year-old, and I based much of Ma's attachment-parenting style on her. For me the breastfeeding made sense on every level - comfort, nutrition, contraception, ritual - and when I realised it was going to bother people I thought I must keep it in the book, as it clearly represents the limits of social approval of motherhood.


message 20: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
H.E. wrote: "I have to say that one of my favorite moments in the book is when she's on the talk show and the talk show host makes a big deal about her nursing Jack even though he's so old. I thought it was a g..."

Re: speaking to survivors, I don't tend to interview individuals for any of my books, because then I think I would feel an obligation to portray their particular situations or views. I prefer to roam freely across a wide range of texts, from memoirs, to academic analysis, to pictures/video, poetry and fiction, message boards...


message 21: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Deborah wrote: "Beautifully complex handling of Ma as she is set free and begins to reacclaimate. Were your intentions to have your readers feel anger, sadness and confusion along with her? I felt all of that......"

Ma was the great technical challenge of the novel; I knew it would be easy enough for readers to click with and care about Jack, because he speaks to them so directly, but Ma I had to conjure up as a three-dimensional character, just using the information Jack (with his sheltered, innocent perspective) gives us about what she says and does. So we can't assess Ma directly, we see her through Jack's eyes (with his mixed feelings) yet judge her on the basis of everything we know and Jack doesn't. Judging Ma is part of the reading experience of ROOM; sometimes she's us and sometimes she's our mother, so it all gets a bit muddy, doesn't it?


message 22: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Daniel wrote: "Thank you for this book. I have rarely had the emotional reaction to books that I had toward this one. Jack and Ma live in this hybrid world of normalcy and horror that many people who suffer for ..."

Someone once asked me if I wrote ROOM in normal language and then translated it into Jack-speak, which made me laugh. That would never work, because if ROOM wasn't seen through his eyes it would be a different book, and not one I'd like to write. I had to be meticulous in creating Jack's voice and world-view - I'd sit there for hours trying to decide whether he'd see the table as male or female, for instance! - but once I had established it, it really wasn't hard to write the book. He's very fresh and curious; he was a great lens on the world.


message 23: by Karen (new)

Karen (karenf) | 5 comments I thought that Ma, for her age and life experience was very mature and insightful as well, with respect to Jack's physical and cognitive development and her attempts to provide nutrition, mental stimulation, and exercise. This seemed to go beyond basic maternal instinct and I applauded her for her efforts. Her maturity level seemed well beyond her years and life experience, in my opinion.

The book was fascinating and thought-provoking and sparked great discussions in our book group.


message 24: by Interested (new)

Interested Reader | 3 comments I don’t believe anyone has discussed the escape scene yet? I could be wrong so I apologize if I am repeating.

I could not put this book down during Jack’s escape. For me this was the most difficult part of the book; my heart was pounding and I couldn’t stop crying. If Old Nick had already buried one child in the backyard, how could Ma be so sure that he wouldn’t bury Jack there as well? She was banking a lot on him taking Jack further so that he had time to escape. I was so scared for Jack, whose character I had absolutely fallen in love with, and the writing in this portion so beautifully conveyed his fear. I often thought of my own son, and I wasn’t sure if I could send him off like that not knowing that it would turn out okay. My feeling was that Ma thought that they were getting close to the end of their time in Room due to Old Nick losing his job, and that she had to at least TRY to save him before it was too late.

I was also surprised at how quickly they found Room based on Jack’s descriptions. I can only hope that police officers in real-life would be able to find her that quickly and efficiently. But I am assuming this section wasn’t drawn out longer because the focus of the book was on the Ma and Jack rather than a police chase/investigation.


message 25: by Heather (new)

Heather | 1 comments First off, I LOVED this book. I gave it 5 stars on goodreads, and I'm pretty stingy with my stars!

I noticed that you've already commented on the breastfeeding, as well as Jack's speech patterns. I have a question that involves both, that I hope you haven't already answered elsewhere: I noticed that while Jack is usually quite articulate (albeit with some grammatical errors), he is not that way when talking about the breastfeeding (e.g., he just says "lots" - instead of "lots of milk," and tends to avoid speaking about it in a direct way). I'm wondering if there was any significance to that for you?

Also - I enjoyed your mentions of Alice and going down the rabbit hole. I interpreted that as being either going into or out of Room. Does that fit with how you saw it?

Finally, just a comment - I was fascinated with the reporter asking Ma why she didn't try to get Jack given up for adoption - I was so enthralled with how she took care of him, and how he sustained her, and their relationship in general, that it had not even occurred to me! Just one example of the thought-provoking themes and questions that you brought up!

Thanks so much, for writing the book, and for answering our questions!


message 26: by Elske (new)

Elske (elskewaite) | 2 comments I thought your book was very cleverly and sympathetically written, and I particularly want to say how much Jack's emotions came across to me. I chose this book for my school book club and everyone loved it just as much as I did.
I did wonder, just out of curiosity, why you chose to have a boy as the main character. I thought it worked brilliantly, but in our book club discussion one of the members brought up the thought, and I just wanted to know if you had a particular reason.
Thank you very much, I really, really enjoyed it.

P.S. The section where Jack has to escape to save Ma was one of the most absorbing and effective pieces of writing I think I have ever read - I wasn't hearing Jack, I felt like I WAS Jack - so, well, it was brilliant.


message 27: by Jane (new)

Jane (juniperlake) | 13 comments Emma wrote: "Deborah wrote: "Beautifully complex handling of Ma as she is set free and begins to reacclaimate. Were your intentions to have your readers feel anger, sadness and confusion along with her? I fel..."

Your answer is perfect, and something I hadn't considered. Of course we wonder about Ma. I felt she was utterly me...trying so hard and then unable, at times, to pull it off. Oh, my, as I write that I realize that I raised two boys. I had such fear that I would raise boys who were, well, male. And they are, of course. I wanted to raise boys who were kind to women. The fierceness of my urge for this kind of openness and sensitivity toward women sometimes kept me from understanding who they were becoming. I have written poetry and short stories about this experience but I didn't realize how much it affected me as a reader.


message 28: by Mel (new)

Mel (benmel31) | 1 comments I also loved this book. I was so absorbed in the story and my husband loved hearing about what was going on with Jack and Ma.

I especially loved Jack trying to get use to Outside. I wanted to both laugh and cry when he was exploring and getting overwhelmed by the outside world that he never knew existed. It is hard to imagine what the world would be like if you had never experienced it, and it came to life through Jack's experiences.


message 29: by Erin (new)

Erin (erinelyse) | 1 comments Diane D. wrote: "I was so happy with the way you chose end Room. To me, there was complete closure for Jack and for Ma (by going back to Room), and for me as a reader because Ma did go back to Room ..."

I have to agree. I often stray from books that deal with such devastaing cirumstances because I simply can't handle the graphic details of abuse. However, Jack's limited perspective allowed me to realize the horror of the situation without having to be dragged through it - beautifully done.


message 30: by Michelle (new)

Michelle | 1 comments First, I loved the book. A truly emotional, at times disturbing read. I smiled, I cried and I shuddered at various times throughout.

I was very much bothered by the response of Ma's family, especially her mother. Why did you choose to make the character so critical?


message 31: by VeganMedusa (new)

VeganMedusa (kerriveganmedusa) I loved this book, but found it so disturbing that it took me about 3 weeks to read. I could only handle so much per day because I really felt claustrophobic like I was trapped in Room with Ma and Jack (getting out of Room helped some but I still found it so emotionally intense and draining).
Which makes me wonder what it was like to write that part of the book? I can't imagine writing the Room half of the book while still living an ordinary life with your family - I picture you locked in a room and writing furiously until finished, with meals being passed through a hole in the door! I'm sure that wasn't the case, but was it difficult to disconnect from Room at the end of a writing session and reconnect with real life?


message 32: by Khornberger (new)

Khornberger | 1 comments I loved Room and chose it as my first Kindle book. It broke my heart when Jack and Ma were separated after they escaped and that illustrates how much of the writing was so painful, yet realistically necessary. The characters were so real to me that I feel as if I need to know what has happened to them even though the story does provide a sense of closure to the degree that is also realistically necessary.

I cannot help but to gaze into my garden shed every time it is open now and picture it as smaller and housing two people.

What a haunting, moving, well written novel!
Excellent work, Emma!


message 33: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 3 comments Ms. Donoghue, I applaud and thank you for writing this emotion, at times difficult to read, and most importantly, compelling novel. It was my very first book I purchased for my KOBO e-reader. I could not turn off my KOBO until I turned the last page.

I too very much appreciate the opportunity to read your responses to so many questions I too had about ROOM, Jack and Ma's characters as well as many of the situations after they left room. I won't repeat as I think you've answered those questions well and I am enjoying reading other's points of view.

With regard to the questions about breastfeeding I couldn't help but wonder, in addition to the closeness it provided and being a shared safe experience for both Ma and Jack, if Ma continued to breastfeed as a birth control method as well. Ma had lost one baby already and perhaps decided to avoid future pregnancy by breastfeeding. Of course it isn't a fool proof method of birth control, but we know how resourceful Ma was and at the very least it would provide protection, however non-foolproof it might be.

That was just a rational I gave it. It certainly wasn't a major point in the story, but definitely one that affected both characters and she did immediately cease breastfeeding upon getting out into the world.

Again, thank you so very much for this opportunity to read your shared thoughts and responses to questions about ROOM. I chose it as my favorite novel of 2010!

Cheers!
Jennifer


message 34: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Interested wrote: "I don’t believe anyone has discussed the escape scene yet? I could be wrong so I apologize if I am repeating.

I could not put this book down during Jack’s escape. For me this was the most diff..."


Good point about the police, Khornberger; the ones Jack encounters are an intelligent and prompt lot. (In several real kidnapping cases, the police blundered about for years...) But the scene between Jack and Officer Oh (named in homage to the actress Sandra Oh, by the way) is pretty long already; as you say, it would have begun dominating the whole book if I had let the police take a long time to figure out where Ma is. Re: the risk of Old Nick burying Jack (alive) in the garden, I suppose I hope readers will share my own sense that Ma - victim though she may be - does have certain powers over Old Nick, and that her grieving-mother insistence that he take Jack's body far away or else she'll turn completely unmanageable does impress Old Nick enough to make him do it...


message 35: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
VeganMedusa wrote: "I loved this book, but found it so disturbing that it took me about 3 weeks to read. I could only handle so much per day because I really felt claustrophobic like I was trapped in Room with Ma and ..."
I don't mean to sound callous, but I've been writing fiction since I was 19, so I'm very used to stepping in and out of that intense private world. ROOM mattered a great deal to me, but no more than any other story I've ever set out to tell, so no, it wasn't hard to shut my computer at the end of the day. Small kids are wonderful that way, they wrench you right into the present moment!


message 36: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Michelle wrote: "First, I loved the book. A truly emotional, at times disturbing read. I smiled, I cried and I shuddered at various times throughout.

I was very much bothered by the response of Ma's family, espec..."


What I really wanted was to make the responses to Ma and Jack, from all the people they meet, cover a wide range, with nobody managing to be unrealistically perfect. So professionals are well-meaning but sometimes say the wrong thing, Jack's aunt is friendly but nervous about his encountering her daughter, Grandpa is rigid with revulsion because he's so distressed about the rapes, Grandma is actually very warm to both Ma and Jack but can't help blundering in some of her comments... I think they all do their best in a deeply uncomfortable situation.


message 37: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Heather wrote: "First off, I LOVED this book. I gave it 5 stars on goodreads, and I'm pretty stingy with my stars!

I noticed that you've already commented on the breastfeeding, as well as Jack's speech patterns..."

Three answers for your three questions.
'Lots' and 'some' for the breastfeeding: originally I had him call it 'having best' as a childish mispronunciation of 'breast', but then my editor pointed out that he doesn't mispronounce anything else. So finally I decided that he is so totally used to breastfeeding that he barely needs to call it anything - it's like breathing for him - so 'having some' would be all he calls it.
Re: Alice, yes, she was an irresistible choice as one of Jack's books because it's all about going between two separate but related worlds.
Re: that moment when the interviewer asks why Ma didn't have Old Nick take him away and leave him somewhere so he could be adopted... yes, it's meant to come as a shock to the reader, because we (like Jack) never considered it. I put that line in because there's a Russian kidnapping case in which the captor (I'm sure not even asking the girl) took away his victim's two babies and left them outside a hospital and they were adopted. I was also thinking of Elizabeth Fritzl's rather extraordinary agreement with her captor/father that some of the children would be raised upstairs by her own mother. Which in turn reminds me of the massive global population of mothers who work (often looking after richer women's children) in one country so that their children can grow up, more or less them without them, in their home country. I wouldn't judge any woman for these choices, it's just another form of powerful motherlove...


message 38: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Elske wrote: "I thought your book was very cleverly and sympathetically written, and I particularly want to say how much Jack's emotions came across to me. I chose this book for my school book club and everyone ..."

Why he's a boy: I've answered this on another strand, I think, but basically I didn't want it to seem like a males-against-females parable, I thought it balanced it better to have Jack be male.


message 39: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jnunemacher) | 9 comments Emma wrote: "H.E. wrote: "I have to say that one of my favorite moments in the book is when she's on the talk show and the talk show host makes a big deal about her nursing Jack even though he's so old. ..."

Agreed, this was also one of my favorite moments, especially the part where she turns to her attorney and asks, on camera, "Is she allowed to ask me such stupid questions?" Oh, don't we all wish we could say that sometimes! Nice touch, Ms. Donaghue!


message 40: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Well, as someone who's been asked her share of stupid questions over the years, I couldn't help but empathize with Ma at that point...


message 41: by Amanda (new)

Amanda (amandar) | 10 comments Yes, I loved that comment as well. As a mother who nursed for a very long time, I can attest to the rude comments made by people who think that nursing past a year is abnormal.

The escape scene was sooo powerful. From the point where Ma is planning it to Jack's tearful acceptance, to Ma and Jack's reunion was probably one of the most powerful and terrifying pieces of literature I have ever read. I was in tears and afraid they may never see each other again or that Ma wouldn't be found and Jack would need to go on with out her.

Very powerful and well-written.

Do you have any advice for those of us who want to write a book but cannot seem to find the right time/story/characters to make it happen?


message 42: by Peter (new)

Peter Sigrist (psigrist) | 1 comments I finished ROOM lately and wondered about the element of shoes. Nick has shoes which make him very alien to Jack; Jack literally waits at one point for the other shoe to drop!
Then when Jack gets outside, he has to deal with being one of the people who have shoes. Was this use of shoes on purpose, am I looking for symbolism where there is none, or am I missing some other point?

BTW, the audio presentation is quite good; we have Kindle and Audible copies in this house.


message 43: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "I finished ROOM lately and wondered about the element of shoes. Nick has shoes which make him very alien to Jack; Jack literally waits at one point for the other shoe to drop!
Then when Jack gets..."


I suppose it began with simple realism: I figured that if Ma and Jack never had shoes (because they didn't need them), it marked them out as different in an interesting way, and I knew shoes would be a burden to Jack (just like in Truffaut's film WILD CHILD), at least until he discovered the joys of light-as-air Crocs! But then the idea of shoes took on some interesting associations; that scene in which Jack stumbles over Old Nick's shoe echoes those tales of a crafty little hero encountering a giant.


message 44: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Amanda wrote: "Yes, I loved that comment as well. As a mother who nursed for a very long time, I can attest to the rude comments made by people who think that nursing past a year is abnormal.

The escape scene w..."


I know successful writer who put their first three books in the garbage. I didn't, but I did have to push my first novel, STIRFRY, through seven drafts before I felt it was publishable. The only way to figure out how to write the book that you and only you can write is to try it and keep trying, fail and fail better (as Beckett said)...


message 45: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 1 comments Hello Emma,
I’m happy to find your extensive commentary here; it is really providing some good meat to ponder as I continue to teach this text to my introductory college English class on “voices of childhood.” Today, in class, we discussed Jack’s version of “reality” in terms of the Socratic Allegory of the Cave – in which men forced to only see shadows and hear echoes of people living behind them (and thus perpetually out of their line of sight) on the back of a cave believe this to be “reality,” even though they are just reflections of reality. When confronted with the “real” world, the men are shocked and scared to see that what they thought was true was actually just a whisper that pointed to the vast world outside of the cave. Did you ever think of this allegory, and how it applied to Jack, when writing this novel? It seems to be strongly correlated with the process that Jack goes through as he develops throughout the text, and especially after he learns of the world outside of Room, and makes for an interesting distinction/comparison to all (even adult) “normal” humans and Jack, a young child who is obviously in an abnormal situation.


message 46: by Emma (new)

Emma Donoghue | 133 comments Mod
Jennifer wrote: "Hello Emma,
I’m happy to find your extensive commentary here; it is really providing some good meat to ponder as I continue to teach this text to my introductory college English class on “voices o..."


Yes, I was very aware of Plato's Cave aka the Socratic Allegory. It was one of those pieces of scholarly background that I couldn't seem to find any way to mention in the novel, because Ma would hardly be telling Jack about it... so I decided to put in that satirical scene in which Jack hears some academics discussing him on a late-night chat show. That way I got to at least mention Plato, Kasper Hauser, child sacrifices and Perseus, which are all really interesting antecedents to the story of ROOM. Rapunzel is another: I was really struck by how many legends of locked-up-virgins getting pregnant there are out there... perhaps because the uterus has been seen as a mysterious sealed chamber in itself.


message 47: by Kewannah (new)

Kewannah | 6 comments I'm just assuming here, but is Ma breast-feeding Jack as a birth control measure?


message 48: by Robbie (new)

Robbie Bashore | 12 comments She's on birth-control pills. Breast-feeding isn't a very effective birth control method, really, especially after the first 6 months. Emma addresses the breast-feeding issue in some other threads. My personal thought was that it would be miserable to wean a child in an 11 x 11 room!


message 49: by Kewannah (new)

Kewannah | 6 comments Robbie wrote: "She's on birth-control pills. Breast-feeding isn't a very effective birth control method, really, especially after the first 6 months. Emma addresses the breast-feeding issue in some other thread..."

I *totally* missed that part of the book. Where is it? I also can't find anything in the discussion thread that answers the breast feeding as birth control question.


message 50: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 3 comments I too commented and thought about breast feeding as a means of birth control. While it is certainly not reliable, I felt it was the only means at Ma's disposal. And since she'd already had a baby prior to Jack, I assumed she was trying any method she could. Evidently if it was mentioned she was on birth control pills, I completely missed that.


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