room

As you know, I had my own mini-readathon over my four-day Thanksgiving break. The first book on my readathon pile was Room by Emma Donoghue. From Goodreads:

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.

I picked my copy of Room up on a clearance sale for a dollar over the summer, and it’s been sitting on my bookshelf since. I thought it looked like a quick read for my readathon, and sure enough it was! I did find some flaws in Room (to me), but the book is compelling enough to overcome any minor negatives.

The story is told in Jack’s perspective, which took me a while to get used to. I struggled with the proper nouns for everything (Jack sits at Table, not the table). I’m not around kids very much but because of this way of addressing inanimate objects he seemed younger than five to me, or I wondered if maybe he had Asperger’s or something.

I admired how well Ma cared for him and taught him considering the circumstances—very protective, inventive, and creative. There are controversial and shocking things Ma has to do through the course of the story, from what you’d expect in an abduction story (rape) to less what you’d expect, but I don’t want to give away spoilers!

Ma’s abduction and near-decade captivity is horrifying, but one of the saddest things for me was that when she finally starts telling Jack how things are—that things he sees on TV are actually real, that there are countless people, not just the two of them, and there are wonders that exist outside Room, a whole world and more—Jack dismisses her outright and refuses to listen or believe. Can you imagine a little kid not caring to explore beyond the only 121 square feet he knows? I mean, I get that the world is a big, scary, overwhelming place, sure okay. But that just broke my heart.

About halfway through, I was feeling ready for a different “voice” as the narrator, Ma’s I suppose… but it would be an entirely different book then. I think using Jack as the narrator—while effective in its own way and certainly exposes the reader to the very adult situations—sort of allowed for glossing over tough topics. But it’s a fiction, so one could read about any number of true-life abduction cases for a different (real) perspective, first coming to mind are the recent Castro kidnappings in Ohio, Jaycee Dugard‘s 18-year ordeal in California, and the Fritzl case in Austria. Just appalling and chilling.

Anyway, I do recommend Room as an interesting “confronting” read. Lots of thought-provoking points for discussion are in this book, and if you are curious about abduction cases in general, Room may be a good “soft” starting point.

Read from November 28 to 29, 2013.