Book Review – Room by Emma Donoghue

Room
Emma Donoghue
Hardback
2011

So, you know those book papers you can get at the library or book stores? Well, this book was in there a while ago, and after I saw it, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. So I finally got a chance to read it.

And I sort of don’t know what to say.

Room follows five-year-old Jack and his mother who live in a little itty bitty ten by ten shack. Because Ma had been kidnapped, held hostage, and raped for several years, where she had Jack in captivity. Then a plan is hatched and Jack gets out and goes and gets them saved.

Oh, and it’s told from Jack’s point of view.
You heard me. Jack.

So what do I say to this review?
The book was weird. First of all, when life does not exist outside a 10×10 box, you don’t need things like articles to help explain things. Because you don’t need “the room” or “a room” or even “his room” or “my room.” You just have room. And because room is all there is, it becomes Room. Capital R. And it wears it like a proper name and becomes another person. So there is Room and Table and Plate and Fork and Plant and… after a while, it’s really hard to read because you sort of stumble through the sentences because the rhythm is off.

And in the first part of the book, it’s okay, but in the second part of the book, you sort of lose a lot of the story because you don’t get the understanding of an adult (or, you know, somebody who had ever been out of Room or slept somewhere other than Wardrobe) and you don’t get to see a lot of the stuff that happens with Ma.

So, like I said, it’s just weird.

I liked that it was a different perspective, but I had some issues with things, too.

The second part of this book had three parts – liberation, dealing with it, and then moving on. But in the dealing with it stage, there’s a lot going on with Ma that just really pissed me off, and poor Jack gets lost in the shuffle and treated like he’s the biggest problem in the world over certain things. Because, you know, Ma wants her world back and is so hell-bent on having it, that she totally forgets that Jack just wants his world, too. (There are arguments when he wants the personal effects the police brought back from Room and she just wants to incinerate everything.) And there is a lot of that that is never ever dealt with.

Jack, who is still being breast-fed at the age of five. A detail that they made sure to talk about several times and I’m not even sure it’s plausible. Because while Jack is busy being small and malnourished and they’re counting out 100 cheerios for an entire meal, I highly doubt that she’s getting nearly enough nutrition to be able to keep breast feeding five years after the kid is born.

And I’m all for breast feeding, but the scenes are kind of weird when it happens because Jack tells us which breast he likes more and why and… And we don’t need that. Seriously.

The story is fresh and new and different, but it falls a little flat because so much of what readers want to know is out of the scope of the narrator. Unfortunately, I’m not sure you could do this sort of thing without the rape/kidnap scenario, so you have to pick and choose. Clearly, the story isn’t about the kidnapping. We don’t see it happen and we don’t fall into it until seven or eight years in. So you sort of have to get past that expectation to appreciate the story.

Sadly, my expectations were way better than the story. I’m going to give it a three. Go ahead and pick it up if you stumble across it, but don’t go out of your way.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Katherine Coble
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 07:47:48

    This book was the darling of the lit scene last year. I just cringe thinking about it. I couldn’t even make it through the sample. I felt like the “it’s all a semi-feral kid’s perspective!” Was too gimmicky.

    Reply

    • Mandi M. Lynch, author
      Aug 12, 2013 @ 17:36:48

      its not even that there’s a gimmick… Honestly, I know it’s supposed to show the resiliency of the kid and all, but it just churned my stomach – especially after they got out and all the kid wanted was the damn room where he got to listen to his mother be abused every few nights. I know the kid just wanted what was familiar to him, but…

      Reply

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