This book is amazing and I highly recommend it. The story is told from the perspective of a child, Jack, whose fifth birthday opens the book. One thing I love about this book is that his mother loves him, protects him, and does her best by him. Her best is not always good enough, especially considering the fact that they have been held in captivity for years (since before Jack was born), but the will is there. Another thing I love about this book is that Jack is actually heard. Most of the people around him take him seriously, and he is an agent in his own life. I won’t give more detail because I don’t want to wreck the story for you. Content warning for allusions to violence, sexual abuse, suicidality, and other trauma; however, there is little concrete detail as these events are being recounted primarily through the perceptions of a child who does not fully understand what they are.
Donoghue’s ability to tell this whole complicated and intense story through Jack, in a developmentally-believable way, is quite fascinating. And the way she portrays his growing up and his understanding of the world from the isolation of Room is so compassionate and convincing.
This is short as there’s little to say. The book is great. I could barely put it down. The subject matter is sometimes hard. But the story is well-told, and the two main characters are portrayed with empathy and respect. I appreciated that Jack’s mom struggles to give him the best life possible, and I appreciate that Jack, despite the crappy environment he is born into, is a child who is seen and heard and taken into consideration.
I read this book when it first came out in 2010. Still stuck inside the front cover was an unused HUMO sticker which I guess I’d used as a bookmark last time around. That brought back memories of the Torhout/Werchter music festival in Belgium that I went to almost every year during my time in the Netherlands from 1997 to 2005. (The HUMO magazine was a big sponsor of the festival when it was still Torhout/Werchter.) It’s a dumb cartoony sticker, but fun to remember those festivals! But I can’t help but think of the contrast between the freedom I had to hop in a car and drive from Holland to Belgium to camp out and mingle with tens of thousands while listening to Daft Punk and Chemical Brothers and Moby in vast open fields…. And the life Jack and his mom lived confined to Room. I know it’s fiction, but it’s real for some, and reading a book like this also makes me appreciate my daily freedom.
Room, by Emma Donoghue. 2010. ISBN 978-1-55468-832-6.