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Room: A Novel

Room - Emma Donoghue Just... wow. I read this book in one day... couldn't stop reading it! It's like sitting in the mind of a 5 yr old as his world changes.

Told in 5 distinct parts, the story opens when Jack turns 5. Ma (and the room the live in) is his world. All Jack has ever known is Room. And Door and TV and table and Ma. He knows nothing of the world outside of an 11x11 square shed, a virtual prison for his 26 yr old mother. All he has ever known is what is inside the square. Everything on TV is not real. It's pretend. It's Outside. And Outside doesn't really exist.

All day, everyday, Jack and Ma go through their schedules and routines. There's breakfast and cartoons and then book reading and Phys Ed. There's naptime and playtime and lunch and dinner and bed time. There's also the Scream Game, where they yell as loudly as they can into the skylight. Jack doesn't know that Ma hopes someone will hear them. There's the game Ma plays at night, with flashing the lights on, off, on, off. Jack doesn't know that Ma hopes someone will see it. There's the reason Jack sleeps in the wardrobe, because at night Old Nick comes and the bed squeaks and Ma doesn't want Him to see Jack.

There comes a time when Ma and Jack have to gather all of their courage, all of their strength, be scared but brave and attempt an escape. To do it, they have to trick old Nick, the man that kidnapped Ma when she was 19 and had held her captive for seven long years, through a still birth and years of abuse, a broken arm, rotting teeth, and the birth of Jack.

There's a period of time after the escape-- because they do make a daring escape-- that Jack has to learn that his world is more than Ma, and Room and Meltedy Spoon and Rug and Table and Eggshell Snake. He has grandparents, a cousin, an Uncle, friends... an entire world that he never knew existed, called Outside. Outside was no longer a story or a fairy tale, it was real. It was an "Unlying".

I really enjoyed Room! It took awhile to get used to Jack's language but once I got it down I found him endearing and laughed at how well Emma Donoghue captured children's literal understanding of the world. I was impressed with how well Ma cared for her child, made sure he was happy and healthy and adjusted as well as one could be while living in a 12ft square cube.

I wish I could have got some perspective from his mother, but seeing the story unfold through his eyes makes it that much more poignant. It really illustrates the resilience of children and how rapidly they adjust to change. I like to think that in some ways Jack was Ma's reason for living and was an inspiration for her when they could finally leave Room. I also found it interesting how when they went back to Room, how small and different it seemed, compared to Outside. I inwardly applauded Jack for choosing Outside.