Author: Emma Donoghue
Format: Book borrowed from the library
My rating: 3/5
Review: Through the perspective of 5-year old Jack, we as readers see the world as innocent and as curious as he does. However, for Jack, the world only consists of the 11′ by 11′ of Room with him and his Ma. Each day, Jack and Ma go through their normal routine of playing with Sink, Rug, TV, and Table until 9:00pm when Ma lays Jack down to sleep in Wardrobe and Old Nick taps in a secret code to get in and out of Room whenever he wants. What we soon learn – and Ma does her best explaining to Jack – is that Ma was kidnapped by Old Nick when she was 19 years old, woke up in Room and has been there for seven years. In this converted shed in the back of Old Nick’s house, Ma and Jack make due and use their imagination and creativity whilst Ma is sneakily trying to plan their escape. Whether it is screaming through the only source of life outside in the skylight or flicking the lights on and off for anyone to see, Ma will never stop trying to escape, even if it means involving Jack to play a part in the plans.
What we feel is a mother’s determination not to give up and to provide what she can to her son as well as a child who is content with what he has since it is all he knows. The more questions Jack asks, the more Ma reveals that there is more to the world beyond walls of Room. All the people and places on TV are in the real world, and they will soon be able to see them. Without being able to have their own private spaces, Ma has developed an intelligent, well-read young boy who wants nothing more than the arrival of Sunday – when Old Nick sometimes brings a special treat on his stingy budget for the two captives. When Ma learns that Old Nick has lost his job, she derives a risky plan that puts both her and more importantly, Jack’s life in jeopardy.
Donoghue brilliantly portrays the mind, actions, and view of a 5-year old. It is fascinating to get in the thought process of a boy when certain events happen because in his mind he does not understand why even after things are explained to him – gets the readers to think about how we use the English language when speaking to children, it all makes sense and is so simple to a 5-year old. We cannot forget about Jack’s imagination as he plays along with Dora the Explorer as well as the characters in his books, a gifted child for sure that is constantly looking for adventure in the Room he calls home.
I myself am not a parent, yet I could feel the protection from Ma as well as providing that hope and optimism for her son. They only have each other to engage with, but Ma remains for the most part patient and affectionate with her little boy, regardless of when Jack accidentally instigates Old Nick leading to unhealthy episodes and unnecessary punishments. This novel puts us in the heart of a mother and her son in one of the worse possible situations – basically prisoners to a mentally ill man to do as he sees fit.
Enough is enough.
Read Room if you like the themes of: