Ok, in an effort for full disclosure I should mention that, yes, I do cuss, of course. And I do so probably more than I should. But not here, not on this site. It is, after all, dedicated to my daughter and grandmother, both of whom I adore. And, although I’m sure my grandma probably cursed every so often (she did raise five children), I remember her being damn-near perfect.
But in this case, opening this review with the aforementioned expletive is appropriate. Because, holy shit, this book is damn-near perfect.
Imagine all you’ve ever known your entire life being enclosed in an 11 by 11 room. But worse than that, imagine living your entire life in an 11 by 11 room. Day in, day out, every holiday (the ones you knew of anyway), every season (at least the ones you could see from the small skylight), every routine, every meal … every. last. second.
A space that we would consider … well, merely a room, is Jack’s entire world. So much so that, for him, it has become more than just his home, it has become a proper noun. Like Idaho. Or America. Or Earth.
It’s all he’s ever known because that’s where he’s lived his entire life. All five years of it. Room is where Jack was born, where his mother cared for him, protected him, taught him to read, to count, to play games. It is also the place Ma has taught him to hide from their captor during the nightly visits and from where Jack eventually makes his harrowing – albeit reluctant – escape, saving both himself and his mom.
If his mother were naming the place, however, she’d probably call it Prison. Or Hell. Because for her it is. Room is where she has been held captive for seven years, ever since she was abducted at age 19 by the man she and Jack refer to as Old Nick.
The best authors are the ones who don’t have to point out the good guys or bad guys or instruct you how to feel, they make you live it. They force you into even the most uncomfortable emotions and yet somehow keep you reaching for the book on your nightstand. Through Jack’s cadence and the author’s flawless prose, Emma Donoghue takes us not just into Room but into Jack. By using him as her narrator, she thrusts her readers into his stunted world with minimalist descriptions such as Sink, Chair, Rug and, of course, Room to remind us that our worlds simply consist of the things around us, and for those of us lucky enough to have House, Work, Family and Freedom, it should be enough.
In the same way Jack and his Ma are trapped in an 11×11 shed, you will be a captive of sorts, as you are willingly bound to your reading chair by a 5×8-inch collection of paper I now lovingly refer to as Book. And, believe me, your captivity is even more excruciating if you happen to have a child named Jack. In fact, this book is so agonizing I’d almost recommend NOT reading it if you do. It hurts too much. I don’t think I have ever been more uncomfortable reading anything in my entire life, and I mean that as a compliment to Donoghue. This book has rocked me to my core; it has affected me. I cannot shake it off.
Or, on second thought, perhaps you could consider changing your child’s name. Room is simply that good.
Be careful though because Room will break Heart.