Room by Emma Donoghue
I’ve mentioned before that my students have been in the midst of book-and-movie review presentations. The number one choice this year was The Martian, especially with my male engineering students. The number two choice was Room. All of my students who reviewed it gave it a rave, and I finally decided to bump it up my TBR. It was a strong, poignant book that pulled me in and never let me go.
SPOILERS LURK AHEAD. Although, I actually felt that not having many surprises helped my reading and understanding of the book. I think that being in the dark would actually be a disservice to getting invested right away.
That said, SPOILERS.
Five-year-old Jack lives in Room with his Ma. They have a daily routine and a weekly routine which consists of playtime, bathtime, chores, meals, exercise, and a little TV. At night, Jack is sent to sleep in the wardrobe when Old Nick comes to be with Ma. To Jack, Room is the entire world, and everything on TV is fake and from another planet. But Ma knows differently. She knows that she is a prisoner held captive by a very bad man, and that Jack is the product of her imprisonment. She also knows that Room cannot contain them for much longer, so she begins to dismantle the world she has built for Jack, story by story. She devises an escape plan, and then, when unshackled from Room, she and Jack find themselves in the big, scary, beautiful world.
I don’t often like child-driven narrators, but here, it made sense. Jack filters some of the heaviest aspects of the world in Room, and he still helps more sophisticated readers understand what is happening. And yet there are moments when he is frustrating and selfish and, above all, a child, that you do want Ma’s perspective and focus. That said, I was engaged from the moment I read till the moment I finished the novel.
One last note, as I celebrate my 2016 Cannonball: I finished reading Room this last Sunday morning. I got up early to finish the last few pages, as the day would be spent celebrating my brother’s college graduation. My brother’s story is his own, so I won’t tell it here. But I was delighted to see him come-of-age and march across the stage to receive his Bachelor’s degree. He, like Jack, has grown up to view the beauty and complexity of the world, to take in its infinity one moment at a time. Room is a solidly good book, and reading it when I did made the experience much more meaningful to me.