Sunday, September 12, 2010

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue
Pages: 321
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Little, Brown & Comp. (Hachette)
Release Date: September 13, 2010

Room is such an amazingly unique read that I'm absolutely sure will be adored by many. It's perfect for those looking for something different to freshen up their reading. This book received an extensive amount of buzz at this year's BEA, was just recently short-listed for the Man Booker prize (yay!!) and it definitely lived up to the hype!

Room is narrated wholly by 5-year-old Jack who has lived his entire life in a small room with only a skylight and no windows. The room is kept locked by a keypad to which only "Old Nick" knows the code. Biologically, "Old Nick" is Jack's father. Jack, however, knows this man only as the elusive stranger who enters the room at night while Jack is sleeping in Wardrobe or brings them "Sunday treat" once a week based on their requests. The reader quickly learns that "Old Nick" kidnapped Jack's mother 7 years prior when she was 19-years-old, has kept her imprisoned in this tiny room for all those years, and fathered Jack.

Emma Donoghue extraordinarily accomplished the task of telling an entire story from the perspective of a 5-year-old child. Though other novels have been narrated by children, Room stands out in that the entire novel is narrated from Jack as his present 5-year-old self; never is there a point where his narration is from looking back on his life -- rather, his thoughts and perspectives illustrate the genuine experience of speaking to a young child. Furthermore, the innocence he possesses is on such a completely different level because of the extreme naivete gained from living his entire life in a 12 x 12 room, the only other human interaction being with his mother.

Shortly into Room, Jack's "Ma" devises a plan to escape. She fails to anticipate Jack's resistance, however, as he loves his life and can't imagine why his mother would want it to change. The reader can easily relate to "Ma's" frustration, as her ability to escape relies greatly on Jack's cooperation. While the author never specfically relays this it is assumed Ma has contemplated her plan for a while, waiting until Jack is old enough to understand and carry it out. Both her frustrations and those of Jack's are palpable and create genuine tension. I empathized with Jack for his lack of understanding, but also felt for the mother. How agonizing to finally believe escape is possible only to have the plan dwarfed by her seemingly all-knowing child.

Many elements of this story related to the well-known story of Jaycee Dugard, kidnapped at age 12 and imprisoned for 20 years during which she birthed 2 children. It's as though the author took this news story and contemplated what life must have been like for the children -- the only difference being that Ms. Dugard's children were sometimes exposed to the real world while Jack never was (except via television which Jack never really fully grasped anyway). On the one hand, Jack believed that everything in the television was fake (outside, supermarkets, etc.) yet, on the other hand, he believed the people were real and were speaking to him directly.

A significant element in the story was the relationship between mother and child. This was a powerful facet to the book; however, not any fault of the author's, I think this book will hit home on an even more powerful level for mothers who have sons of their own. While I could certainly empathize as I do with most books I read, I felt that I was missing out what would have had an even more crucial impact on me if I had children. This is not at all to say that those without children won't enjoy the book -- only that those who have experienced this bond may come away from reading this with just that much more.

In Room, Emma Donoghue simultaneously creates a heart-breaking and heart-warming read. Readers will love Jack as I did, and will be enraptured by the world he describes. Reading this book was truly an experience; relish the read because this is one of those that you'll wish you could read again for the first time.

Definitely plan on reading this book!!!

Also, check out this fascinating article Emma Donoghue wrote about the research she did for this book.


Marce said...

Great long detailed review, I think this will be an amazing read.

I look forward to trying this one, it will be next year reading for me.

christina said...

I generally don't keep up with short lists but this book sounds amazing. And slightly disturbing. But amazing even still.

I'm totally going to nab it soon. Thanks for pointing it out.

Jenny said...

Marce -- thanks! Are you waiting for the paperback of this one? It's definitely a unique read that I think is worth it!

Christina -- Yeah, sort of disturbing when you really think about it but really good still!!

Amanda said...

I really wish I'd picked this up at BEA!

Trisha said...

Another book I keep meaning to get my hands on. I have no idea how I missed this at BEA. Lack of preparation before going and overload once I was there. :) Great review!

nomadreader said...

I loved this one too! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Jenny said...

Amanda -- it's worth picking it up now!

Trisha -- lol, I hear ya! There are so many other books that I thought that about. Fortunately I packed this one in my suitcase!

Nomadreader -- I have high hopes for it...!!

Well-Read Reviews said...

I had no idea you are *so* close. That is just too funny. We're going to be off Rinehart! :D I'm at that Books a Million all the time. Bargain books! :)

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

This sounds chilling -- and terrific.

Jenny said...

Allison -- That is really funny! My hubby and I are always there too!! Maybe we'll run into each other one of these days!

Stephanie -- it was!

Zibilee said...

Amazing review! I just finished this one as well, and was blown away by both the complexity and simplicity of the story. I loved Jack so much and really hope that this book takes the prize. I just have to say it again...amazing review!

Jenny said...

Heather -- thanks!! I really hope it wins too. You're so right that it's complex but simple at the same time! Jack is such a great character!! Can't wait to read your review too!

bermudaonion said...

I'm glad to see you loved this - it's next up in my TBR pile.

caitieflum said...

Wow that sounds like an amazing book, I will have to make sure I read it!

Jenny said...

Kathy -- yay! I hope you love it too! Can't wait to read your review.

Caitie -- yes, definitely read it!!

Kari said...

Was this book available at BEA? I think I saw it somewhere and the one-sentence summary freaked me out a bit so I didn't pick it up! Seemed a little too disturbing of a premise to me, so I think it's interesting you also call it "heart-warming!"

Kari said...

AH, it completely didn't register when you said it got a lot of buzz at BEA. Well, my question was already answered!

Jenny said...

Kari -- hehe.. yup, it was talked about the first night at the Editor's Buzz panel and then she was there one of the days signing books. It is surprising, but the book is surprisingly heart-warming. Jack is an awesome character!

Sherry said...

I think I'll have to add this book to my TBR list. Thanks for the review and for the link to the article about author research. And thanks for participating in the Saturday Review.

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