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October 03, 2022

Room: Book Review

By Wendy Robards

Room, by Emma Donoghue.

After nap we do Scream every day but not Saturdays or Sundays. We clear our throats and climb up on Table to be nearer Skylight, holding hands not to fall. We say "On your mark, get set, go," then we open wide our teeth and shout holler howl yowl shriek screech scream the loudest possible. Today I'm the most loudest ever because my lungs are stretching from being five.

Then we shush with fingers on lips. I asked Ma once what we're listening for and she said just in case you never know. - from the ARC of Room -

Jack's mother has lived seven years in a tiny room after being kidnapped at the age of nineteen. Jack's birth (the result of repeated rapes), gives her a new purpose for her life -- that of mother. Room is Jack and Ma's story which begins on the morning of Jack's fifth birthday. Narrated in the unique voice of Jack, the novel follows the characters from the limited life of captivity, to the overwhelming and chaotic Outside world and freedom.

Emma Donoghue deftly creates Jack and Ma's world within an eleven by eleven foot room. Their days are surprisingly interesting, with Ma creating imaginative games for them to play together. But there is an underlying tension, made more poignant by the fact that it is through a five-year-old's eyes that we see the story unfolding. Jack is no longer an infant. He is a smart, curious boy who asks a lot of difficult questions. His mother has allowed him to believe that the world does not exist except for the room in which they live, an alternate reality which eventually must be corrected if they are ever to escape Room.

I must admit that the first 40 pages or so of this novel took some getting used to ... Jack's voice is odd. But once I allowed myself to be fully inside Jack's world, the book began to resonate with me. The daring escape attempt is perhaps one of the most suspenseful and nerve-wracking scenes I've read in a long, long time. Ma's inner turmoil is perfectly captured through the eyes of her observant son -- even though he does not fully understand it. What begins as a story of captivity evolves into a deeper novel of mothering, love, hope and the resilience of the human spirit.

It takes a talented writer to write entirely from the point of view of a child -- and Donoghue pulls off this feat seamlessly. The relationship between mother and child is beautifully revealed on every level. Donoghue's ability to draw the reader in and emotionally invest them in the story is brilliant. Room was recently shortlisted for the 2010 Booker Prize ... and it is a well deserved nomination. Original, enthralling, haunting, and memorable Room is a novel I highly recommend for readers who enjoy literary fiction.

Five stars out of five.

Catch all of Wendy Robard's reviews in her fabulous blog, "Caribousmom".

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Article © Wendy Robards. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-10-11
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