A Review of “Room” by Emma Donoghue
A voracious reader develops a tough skin. We find books that rise and fall in our eyes, as the story progresses. Often, we wade through less than satisfactory plots because we love to read and we wish to finish what we started.
We have our favorite writers but, being mortal, they need time to get a new book to market. Meanwhile, we seek out new authors, hoping they will be a winner. It is often like panning for gold, hoping you find that one treasure. Yet, you know that you will find more pyrite than gold.
Book reviews are essential to the reader’s search. In a recent Amazon prowl of new fiction, I came across a very well-received novel from 2010 called Room by Emma Donoghue. I investigated it, secured it from the library and soon realized I had found the elusive gold nugget. In my joy, I had to tell my readers.
At the age of 19, a woman is kidnapped and held hostage in a shed in an 11×11 room. Her prison has a bed, bathroom, wardrobe, TV, clock, small skylight and a rudimentary kitchen. She is never allowed to leave. Her captor, Old Nick, comes to visit her at night and, in time, a son, Jack is produced. The boy grows up in the prison and Ma and Jack do everything they can to live a normal life in captivity. Old Nick occasionally brings them food and the barest necessities.
When Jack reaches the age of 5, having never seen Outside, Ma develops a plan to escape from her seven-year nightmare. Meanwhile, Jack is completely comfortable with the only world he has ever known.
The plots opens a vista of questions. Will they escape? If so, what will become of them? Will Jack be able to adapt to Outside? Will they be separated?
Donoghue writes in the voice of five-year old Jack and his observations of their world captivate the reader. Room is a disturbing, exciting and intellectually satisfying novel with a powerful eye for social commentary.
Entertainment Weekly writes, “Though the story’s chilling circumstances reflect the horrors endured by tabloid-famous abductees, Donoghue avoids all sensationalism.”
Donoghue doesn’t unveil Ma’s past and how they came to be captives, except through hints in dialogue and through snippets of Jack’s thoughts. In that respect, Room has a marvelous pacing and texture.
The Irish Times says:
“Charming, funny, artfully constructed and at times almost unbearably moving, Donoghue mines material that on the face of it appears intractably bleak and surfaces with a powerful, compulsively readable work of fiction that defies easy categorization… Part childhood adventure story, part adult thriller, Room is above all the most vivid, radiant and beautiful expression of maternal love I have ever read. Emma Donoghue has stared into the abyss, honoured her sources and returned with the literary equivalent of a [great painting by one of the Masters]. This book will break your heart.”
Room is unforgettable and highly recommended.