Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

In honor of Columbus Day, I'm reviewing a book about finding a whole other world.  It's just that the whole other world in Room happens to be everything outside of the 11 ft by 11 ft room where the narrator, Jack, and his mother are being held.  And just to clear this up:  No, I don't think Columbus "discovered" America first. No, I don't think he was probably an amazing altruistic explorer just really digging some new scenery.  But also, no, I don't think he knew that he was about to wipe out a significant portion of an indigenous population with venereal disease.  Weapons probably, but I don't think we can honestly paint him as a mastermind in biological warfare.  You know, seeing as how germ theory and comprehension of the immune system amounted to "What theory?" and "Beg pardon?" during Columbus's time.  Not to mention that personal hygiene was pretty much watching where you stepped around livestock and that was about it.

Anyway, back to the book.  Jack narrates the story of how he and his mother live in and escape from Room, as well as how they adapt to Outside.  Ma (five-year-old Jack's mother conveniently) was abducted when she was 19.  She's been living in Room for the past seven years of her life.  Room is well concealed, soundproof, and where she is beginning to think she will raise her son and then die.  If you're doing the math, then you realize that Jack is born in Room.  He knows nothing of the outside world with the exception of what he sees on their television.  And Ma tells him that none of it is real; it's all stories made up from different planets.  Room is truly the only thing in Jack's world.  Ma does her best to give him "normal" under the circumstances.  She does some amazing things with what little they are given by their captor.

Ma figures out a plan to escape which involves pretending Jack is dead.  That part was hard to read, as I kept thinking that she was asking WAY too much of the boy.  That even if they managed to fool "Old Nick" (their captor) then Jack would be so confused by the outside world that everything would fall apart and end badly for everyone involved.  Fortunately, the escape is rocky but successful.  What follows next is Jack's account of living in the outside world.  There are many, many things that are foreign to him - for example, he's never seen of had to climb up/down stairs before - and many of them are unpleasant to a little boy who has only known physical and emotional closeness to his mother.  Everyday noises seem sudden and too loud to him.  Shoes hurt his feet.  The sun is too bright (there was a small soundproof skylight in Room but that was it for natural light) and the air is too breezy.  During this part of the book, I couldn't help but think they should seek out some autism parents as most of us can now identify potential stimuli hazards from a mile away.

The book also touches on the difficult transition for Ma, though it's from Jack's perspective so we don't get all the details.  Her family, after searching and searching for her, held a funeral for her.  Now she's back with a five-year-old son.  Her parents have divorced, her brother has his own family, and she's not sure how she's supposed to fit in.  They're different and she's different.  In the end, nothing is perfect but there is hope that it will get better as time passes.  I have to say that I enjoyed this book after I was initially a wee bit annoyed by the narration (Jack capitalizes a lot, but then I realized that was actually what he should do.  When you think that the light shining on the table is the only one in existence, you should call it Lamp.).  Once I got into the feel of it though, it was a pretty fast read.  For those worried about child abuse issues, Jack and "Old Nick" rarely have any interaction.  "Old Nick" never abuses (in any way) Jack.  Obviously holding him captive is an issue, but Ma is really the one meant to be in Room.  A very interesting book and, in my opinion, worth the time to read. Pin It

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