Author: Emma Donoghue
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.”
Thoughts: Told through Jack’s eyes, Room is an amazing story of resilience, survival and love. Ma is Jack’s whole world, and Room is all he knows, as is Rug, Wardrobe, Refrigerator, and Under the Bed. Yet, after Jack turns Five, Ma starts unlying about their world, and Jack slowly begins to realize that his world is not what he thought it was. Suddenly thrust into this larger Outside, Jack struggles to make sense of everything new.
The miracle of the story is the fact that Jack maintains his innocence in spite of everything that happens to Ma and to him. This is a credit to his relationship with Ma. The love they feel for each other keeps them strong and brave when stronger people would crumble. Ma doesn’t shelter Jack from the evils that surround them but rather finds a way to make them less scary and therefore more tolerable. The games she plays with him to make his world safe, the care she shows in his upbringing – limiting television, focusing on word games and simple math – all show how much they need each other.
The story takes off when Ma shows her desperation and later her struggle to adapt to her freedom. In spite of his isolation during his formative years, Jack shows more adaptive powers than Ma, and his confusion over her behavior is understandable albeit upsetting. As Ma crumbles, Jack grows even braver and removes any doubt about his ability to survive in the outside Outside.
Room takes the reader on an emotional journey. Love, joy, wonder, horror and back again, the reader experiences Jack’s story through not only his innocence but the reader’s own understanding on the world. This duality lends an even greater sense of wonder at everything Ma was able to do for her son while maintaining her sanity. It also raises the question of what the reader would be willing and able to do to protect his or her own child and the sense of innocence.
Ms. Donoghue embodies the voice of a five-year-old. Any parent reading this will be able to recognize his or her own child’s sense of wonder and voice in Jack. Curious and precocious, Jack is just an ordinary five-year-old living in extraordinary circumstances. His is a story that will haunt and inspire the reader to spread the love and protect the innocence, for Jack is truly unforgettable.
Thank you to Hachette Book Group for my review copy.