by Emma Donoghue
Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2010
About the Book
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. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.
Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.
A Little Detour – Art Imitates Life
I’m fairly certain we are all familiar with the saying: “Art imitates life”; a principle held by Aristotle, while Oscar Wilde held that: “Life imitates art”. In this case, I will have to uphold Aristotle’s position. I believe Room was inspired by the darker side of life.
There are many children in our country who go missing every day. Sadly, many of them are later found dead; however, there have been cases where the child is found years later, having been kidnapped and held in captivity. Cases like Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard, and Shawn Hornbeck are three cases that were in the news recently enough that we know there is hope of finding a few of these missing children alive. And just yesterday, three young women, who went missing between 2002 and 2004, have been found alive.
Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were just teenagers when they were abducted in Cleveland, Ohio. Michelle Knight was 20 when she vanished. A young 6-year-old girl, who is likely the child of Amanda Berry was also found. Charles Ramsey, a neighbor of the kidnapper, Ariel Castro, heard screams coming from the house and went to investigate. Amanda Berry was trying to escape, when Ramsey heard her screams, leading to the rescue of the victims. Castro and his two brothers were all arrested as suspects in the case.
When I first started reading Room, I was a little put off by a child narrator. As I have said before, I will give a book a good 50 to 100 pages before giving up on it. I am glad I did.
While the story is based on the horrible subject of a teen girl being abducted and held captive for sexual purposes; there is something about it being told from the point of a 5-year-old, who knows nothing about how he came to live in Room that makes the book slightly less dark. He, Jack, realizes that Room is where he lives and then there is Outside. He loves Room, because his mother, Ma, shelters him and loves him and makes the best world she can for him. Then one day, she tells Jack the truth about Room and Outside, and devises an escape plan. No spoilers here about what happens.
You can see how there are two different perspectives regarding the circumstances that Ma and Jack live in. She knows the painful truth about their existence, while he knows nothing but the seemingly wonderful world she has created for him. I eventually warmed up to the idea of a child narrator, and Donoghue creates a believable voice for Jack.
In the end, I would say that I liked this book. I didn’t love it, but not every book that isn’t great literature, should be overlooked. If for no other reason, I would say the very thing that annoyed me in the beginning – a very unreliable child narrator – ended up being the thing I appreciated most about the book. Room is not a flawless story, but it was a good read.
A Final Thought About the World We Live In
I grew up at a time when, at twelve-years-old, my parents let me walk ten miles with my brother and two friends, to a State Park. Of course, we also had to walk home. At sixteen, I rode my bicycle about thirty miles with some girlfriends to the Jersey Shore, and home again (we stayed a couple of days). Both times, I needed my father to come pick me up on the way home, because the distance was so far. We didn’t have cell phones then. We had to seek out public phones. On the way home from the park, it was a country store. On the way home from the shore, it was a dive bar.
I walked to school from the fifth grade –about a mile walk- through the eleventh grade – a two mile walk. (I could drive my senior year). I grew up walking through the woods to my grandparent’s house. I could stay out all day, roaming the neighborhood, as long as I was home in time to help with dinner.
My point is – that is not the world we live in anymore. We live in a world where there are people who prey on our children. If you are the parent of children, please protect them and keep them safe. Talk to them, teach them, and make them aware of possible dangers (without making them afraid of the world), while letting them know what to do and who to go to for help if they don’t feel safe.