Strong Praise for Room

Jacob Robbins ‘15
EE Contributor

How would it feel to live in a eleven-by-eleven square foot space your whole life and never know what lies on the outside? This question is answered in the heartbreaking, yet inspirational novel, Room. The novel, by Emma Donoghue, tells a terrifying story of a five-year-old boy and his mother who have been imprisoned in a garden shed. Hard to categorize under a certain genre, Room is a young-adult fiction novel, topping charts immediately with its release in 2010. Room is a winner of the 2010 New York Times bestseller for a fiction novel. Additionally, it was nominated for the Man Brooker Prize in 2010.

The premise of Room stems from the horrific experience of Elisabeth Fritzl, the Austrian woman who was imprisoned by her incestuous father in a makeshift dungeon for 24 years. Using these reports as inspiration, Donoghue has invented the abduction of a 19-year-old college student, who is raped by her abductor, resulting in the birth of her son, Jack. A film adaption of Room is coming in 2015. As a child-abuse story, Room is a novel I would never consider myself reading. As a science fiction fan, even reading the back cover of a novel like this is a rarity. I would have had no interest in reading this novel, except that it is narrated by the woman’s 5-year-old son.

I read this novel huddled in the corner of my couch, wrapped in a blanket, eyes darting back and forth across the page while I nibbled away every fingernail. Good Reads reviewer, Victoria Laurie, wrote, “I hated it the whole way, (please read “hated” in a GOOD way).” I could not agree more. I hated every moment of it, how Ma was treated, the tension and the anxiety given to my body, the suffocating feeling of the room, how it haunted and tortured me page by page that I had to refill my glass of water about 10 times. But this hate made me love this novel, more love than I have ever had for a book. The sheer genius of the storyline moved me to laughs and tears. I wished on all 336 pages that I could jump into the story and save Ma and Jack from the tortures of their saddened life. Ron Charles of Good Reads stated that, “Everything about Emma Donoghue’s “Room” sounds mawkish and sadistic.” From reading the summary on the back, I could not agree more with Mr. Charles. However, from reading the 336 pages in less than 2 days, this novel is so much more. The juxtaposition of heaven and hell is magnificently portrayed: room is heaven to Jack, watching Dora on TV and how “everything in room is ours” (72). Yet the hell, created by their captor Old Nick on Ma, is undoubtedly present throughout. Room is home to Jack, but a prison to Ma. Room takes a unique look at a relationship and life through the naivety of a little boy. Above all, this book is not sad, but it is filled with humor created by the dramatic irony in Jack. For example, Jack says, “when I was a little kid I thought like a little kid, but now I’m five I know everything” (120). It is a book that depicts love like no other book I’ve ever read. It made me look at things differently in our big world; how lucky we are to have what we have. It makes you problem solve in your head, like you are trapped with Ma and Jack. Rachel Hogan of Trumbull High School said, “when I finished the book, I had to just sit and stare at nothing while I tried to process it.” I could give this novel 10 out of 5 stars, but staying within the limits, I undeniably give it 5 out of 5 stars. Room is bold and clever, and a complete success.

We may hope for a new iPhone or a Starbucks gift card, but for Ma and Jack, they hope for freedom. For Jack, room and his mother are his entire world, except for “Old Nick”, as they call him. He comes almost every night at the same time, bringing groceries and taking away the garbage. His visits mean Jack has to sleep in the wardrobe and stay quiet, because Ma doesn’t want Old Nick to see him or talk to him. In room, they have a small old TV, a stove and a sink for a kitchen, a toilet and a bath in another corner, and a table and two chairs as well as the bed, a wardrobe and a rug. Ma makes daily schedules, hoping for Jack to stay active and busy. As Jack gets older, Ma tries to teach Jack about the real world…“outside”. However, Jack’s concept of real extends no further than room, and everything else is just TV. Ma is desperate to get Jack to the outside, and she has a bold plan for the two of them to escape room. But will Ma and Jack escape? Is outside a reality for them, or just a fantasy? Take the ride of unconditional love between Ma and Jack, as they battle room and resiliently take a journey, trying to escape from one world in to another.

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