Thursday, August 25, 2011

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue

Room: A Novel By Emma Donoghue(A)/Michal Friedman(N) [Audiobook]

Wow. A book hasn't swallowed me whole like that in a long time. This one will be haunting be for awhile. I wish I could tell you what it's about, but I wish I hadn't read the back cover 30 pages or so into and changed my own perception. It's best to figure it out along with the story.

I will say that it's about a 5-year-old boy who has never left the room where he lives. His whole world is Room and Bed and Rug. It's a little jarring to read from his point of view in the beginning and I was worried I wasn't going to be able to get into his story, but once I became accustomed to his voice, I couldn't put his story down. And his story wouldn't have the power it does without his perspective. We think about these type of stories from other perspectives, but never from his. Never from the child who is comfortable in his world that we know is all wrong. The child that never wants to leave his strange circumstances when we understand why he should.

Most of the time his naivete was right one, but there were occasions where Donoghue used his voice to explain something that I didn't buy into him understanding. I wish she would have trusted her reader more to see the discord of reality and his perception instead of using Jack to interpret his mother's emotions or the sequence of events. I loved the juxtaposition of reality and his interpretation and would have liked more of them. There were also some plot twists (view spoiler) that didn't ring entirely true, but I so believed Jack that in the end it didn't matter. There is one point where the plot takes a turn in a different direction from Jack's perception (view spoiler) but Jacks' reality is so real, you don't even consider other options. That's when I knew I'd follow Jack anywhere.

Maybe it's the unusual perspective or the strong voice. Maybe it's that I know what it's like for a child to change your world. Maybe it's that right now I feel trapped in my own room with my own baby. Maybe it's that Jack's relationship with his mother is so different from own experience and I was both shocked and saddened by their bond. Or maybe it's that Donoghue made me think about the world in a way I never have before. But whatever it is, this book grabbed my attention and wouldn't let it go. I related to Jack's story when I couldn't possibly know what his life is like. It's difficult to make the humdrum of ordinary life day in and day out inside an 11x11 room exciting, but Donoghue manages to keep my intense attention. (view spoiler)

While some of the events in the book are disturbing, I don't think they're too disturbing. Jack's innocent voice saves us from the horror that this story could be. It's not about all the things lost in Outside. It's about wanting to stay in and safe. And it's about the power of maternal love. Because of that, the story has redemption and hope and happiness.


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