Room by Emma Donoghue is simply a brilliant book. Sheer genius. Room very much deserved the Booker prize it was short-listed for.
It’s also the book that gave me nightmares again.
Room is about a five-year-old boy who has lived his entire life locked with his mother in a remodeled garden shed after her abduction seven years earlier by a stranger.
It’s startling how different Jack is, as a result. For instance, all the items in the room (Rug, Table, Door, Bed, etc.) are capitalized because in his world, there’s only one of them, so they are proper nouns. And his eyesight hasn’t properly developed, especially not depth perception, because he’s never had to focus further away than eleven feet.
But what shines through (and what makes the book so disturbing) is the joyful tone of Jack’s narration. This is a happy child, much loved and content. He doesn’t know he lives in Hell because his mother has created a home for him there.
The problem is, he’s getting too big for it, and too smart to keeping believing the fictions (like that everything in TV is fake). Somehow, Jack’s mother has to find a way to get them both out of Room safely.
About eighty percent of the way through the book, I wondered how Donoghue could possibly end it. This child will/would be affected by these events his entire life, so as an author, how do you decide when to stop the narration? I didn’t see there WAS a place to stop without the reader feeling like they’d been thrown through the windshield when a car traveling at freeway speeds suddenly stopped. But the ending was pitch perfect, as indeed the entire book was.
It’s a tough subject, one that is painful to read. But without diluting the horror one bit, Donoghue has made it approachable. Room is a gentle story, full of love and affirmation. A celebration of devoted motherhood and the strength of the human spirit.