Sunday, January 16, 2011

REVIEW: Room by Emma Donoghue

To 5 year old Jack, Room-the 11x11 shed he and his mother live in-is all he knows. Its where he and Ma play track and corpse and a million other games while waiting until Sunday when Old Nick brings them their special treat. To his mother its her own personal hell, a terrible place she was thrown into at the age of 19 after being kidnapped off the street. Room is told through the eyes of 5 year old Jack. We experience life in Room through a child's view and the struggles he and Ma face once they are free.

I have been curious about this book for awhile especially since the premise mirrors a few real life stories that have come out in the past couple of years. I found the idea of exploring a horrible situation like this through the eyes of a child to be unique. I found the world that Jack and Ma built in Room to be fascinating and marveled at the ability of Ma to create at least a little sense of "normalcy" for Jack in such an environment. I loved Jack's curiosity about everything. When Ma convinces Jack to help her make a break for it, my heart was pounding in my chest as I flew through the pages to see if they managed to pull it off (even though we were told in the book description this was going to happen).

What I found sucked me in the most was Ma and Jack's struggles once they were freed from Room. To Ma it was a hellhole that she just wants to forget about and move on with her life. To Jack, he knows no other life and taking him out of Room is liking taking a fish out of water.

There were a few problematic areas for me. The language that Jack uses in the book was jarring and hard to get used to. His habit of identifying inanimate objects as if they were living things with personalities was bizarre. I often found myself wondering why he didn't speak properly. As the mother of a child that just turned six, I know from experience that when you have a child whose primary contact is with adults they tend to talk more like adults. Jack talks like a toddler. I think the author did this to emphasize that this is a kid point of view but I had a hard time with it. I didn't understand the decision of Ma to keep Jack in the dark about the existence of a world outside of Room until he was five and couldn't help thinking that maybe it was because she never thought she would escape. If she did think escape would occur why didn't she realize that Jack would have a much more difficult time processing the outside world having just recently learned of its existence than if she had just raised him to believe in it from the beginning? Finally, although I enjoyed following the story from the child's perspective, I felt throughout the entire book that I was missing a bigger and more fascinating story by just having the point of view confined to Jack.

Also I know that this was a coping mechanism for Jack, but I was completely grossed out by the fact that for comfort he sucked on his mother's rotten tooth that had fallen out. Eeeewww.....

I thought the book was an interesting enough read, I just didn't get as much out of it as I had hoped. Maybe I am missing something since many others seemed to love it but I thought it was just good, not great.

borrowed from the Fruitport Library


  1. Great Review! Although you had a few problems with this novel, it sounds interesting and I might give this a go.

  2. I'm one of those who loved it, like you I was so afraid for Jack and Ma during the escape, and so proud of Jack for being so brave! I have a little boy myself and thought about him the whole time which made it close to home. I also found the second half of the book the most fascinating.

  3. Le C'est Bon plus demi is a good enough indication that I should maybe wait it out. I've read all the rave reviews but like you I think I've come to expect more out of this read since my expectations are so high. I'll wait it out and I agree with Spangle on this being a great review. An honest review is what I look for most so I'll be more aware when reading it in the future.