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Book review : Room

“To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.”

(review written on 6/12/2011)

In a few words, this is a book that I ‘d definitely recommend to anyone. It is about such an interesting and serious subject, that becomes bearable only by the fact that it’s a 5-year-old narrating it. It’s because of this fact that it’s very easy to read and not overwhelming as it would be by another point of view. But even if it is easy to read, it is very powerful and it gets the reader thinking of various matters. A book that definitely stays with you for a long time, if not forever.

(WARNING: From this point on, you will find spoilers on the book)

For me, there are four kinds of books. The ones I don’t even finish. The ones I finish but don’t like. The ones I like but after a while remember just that I liked and nothing more of the plot. And the ones I adore and stick with me forever.
This is definitely one of the last ones. I don’t think I can ever forget such a book. First of all, the incredible, though really true story. I know that this particular story is not true, but it’s obviously based on several cases, some of which are really disturbing and so recent. Like the Fritzl family. After reading the book, I did a small research on these situations and was stunned by them. I thought of the Fritzl family, so recent, and I compared them with my life. The kids are slightly younger than me and were only introduced to the world we live in in 2008. And I think of all the things I did in those years and how different their world was till then. And how incredible it seems that things like that can happen at these times.

The story
The book is divided in two easily distinguishable parts. The first one is located in Room. We learn about Ma’s and Jack’s routine. But we also notice the change in Jack that puts Ma in the position of explaining to him that the world is not just Room. She begins to plan their escape and Jack, though scared, accepts to be part of it, mostly because of his affection for his mother.
The dividing line between the two parts is also the climax of the book, filled with suspense and agony. Jack manages to escape and for a while we don’t know if he will make it to rescuing his mother. But he does. And we enter the second part of the book.
Ma and Jack are outside. We follow them in the psychiatric clinic and we watch them divide when Jack goes to live with Granma for a while and Ma stays in the clinic. We watch as Jack discovers the world, his reactions not very unlike any other 5-year-old. We feel his fear of never seeing his mother again when she attempts suicide. And we watch them settle in their own home, where each one has his own room.

Characters
Reading the book, I couldn’t but put myself in Ma‘s shoes. Given that she was in college and raised quite normally in our times, what a shock could an event like that be. Remaining for all those years in there, not knowing if she’ll ever continue her life outside. I can’t but think of what it would be for me in a situation like this. Terrifying. And yet, living those years trapped in a Room with a kid, what an effect it must have on someone’s character. How much more responsible she must have been after leaving the room, having to raise a kid from scratch without any help, in such a particular situation, how much more mature than people of her own age.
On the other hand, what could an experience like that do to her trusting in others? A very direct effect was the attempted suicide which indicated depression, obviously. Isn’t it amazing how one single person (old nick) could do so much damage?
The book only takes us until the point we know that they both are settled in the outside world, but it would be interesting to know how Ma is doing. Because for her, unlike Jack, this is not a new world werethat she has to learn and discover, but the one she used to live in and has to re adapt to.
Now, Jack. I just loved Jack. Such an intelligent kid at that age. And Donoghue really managed to captivate the spirit of a 5-year-old, never getting the reader to think that maybe it’s a bit off. I could see the things Jack saw, from his perspective, understand what he thought and the way he elaborated on things. The fact that the only other person he knew was Ma, had a positive effect on his education. Given that there was nothing else to do, and eager to have some human contact, Ma really invested on teaching Jack how to read and talk. And it shows. He has the mentality of a 5-year-old, but slightly smarter.
It’s very sweet the way he loves his mother. And how for that, he accepts her plan, though very scared, for their rescue. The most interesting part of Jack, was the second part of the book, where we see how he adapts to the new world. How attached he is to his mother and yet, how he manages to trust so easily his Granma and his Steppa. And how he is scared of the world, but not too much. As I said for Ma, it would be interesting to know a little bit more about how he’s doing after the book ends.
Other Characters . It was very interesting to read about Ma’s family reactions. How the parents divorced and how differently they accepted Jack. How one of them could not stand the thought of Ma being dead and how the other one longed for closure. Such an interesting subject, so commonly discussed with the missing children on tv and the media. I loved the way Granma and Steppa treated Jack, no differently than any other kid.

Overall, I found this an incredible experience. The story was so incredible, yet realistic at the same time. The characters felt so real, because they are every-day characters that just happened to live a tragedy, even with a happy ending. A very nice gift to the world by Emma Donoghue.

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3 comments on “Book review : Room

  1. κοπελιά, τι ωραία ριβιούζ κάνεις!

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