Becky’s Two Hundred and Forty-Eighth Book Review: “Room” by Emma Donohue

“Room” by Emma Donoghue was a real page-turner. I added this book to my wishlist after seeing the preview for the movie. It’s funny how a lot of times I will see a trailer for a movie and think – oh, I want to go read the book that’s based on. But I’m weird, so whatever. It was a captivating novel that I could not put down.

What makes this book a fascinating read is that the story is being narrated by a five year old. We meet Jack on his fifth birthday, which is when his Ma decides that he is old enough to learn the truth – that there is a whole world outside Room. “Before I didn’t even know to be mad that we can’t open Door, my head was too small to have Outside in it. When I was a little kid I thought like a little kid, but now I’m five I know everything.” (Room, pg 102). The way that Jack learns was very well done. His genuine curiosity and how he reacts to everything is realistic, endearing, and at times very funny. I think Emma Donoghue captured his voice well. Writing from that rare perspective created a really interesting narration.

I liked the way that we learned bits and pieces about Jack’s Ma through her either telling Jack directly, or him overhearing her talking to others later on in the novel. Stuck in the room with her son, she did a remarkable job teaching him everything she could about taking care of themselves and making life for him as normal as possible. She taught him to read and write and speak and count. The relationship between Jack and his Ma is a little odd and unquestionably codependent. It is clear that the reason that Jack’s Ma did not lose her mind being captive for all those years was because she had Jack. He became her world, just as she was his. He was the one good thing that came out of her kidnapping.

Their adjustment to life Outside was intense and at times Jack was very insightful. “When I was four I thought everything in TV was just TV, then I was five and Ma unlied about lots of it being pictures of real and Outside being totally real. Now I’m in Outside but it turns out lots of it isn’t real at all.” (Room, pg 277). I really liked this quote.

Would I recommend this book? Yes – but not to everyone. Since the book is narrated by a five year old, it is a little challenging. His thought processes are not complete and in some cases can jump around. It was very accurate to the way a five year old speaks, but it was a bit confusing. Once I got a few pages in, however, I could not put the book down. It was a really exciting read and I look forward to reading Emma Donoghue’s other works.

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