Book Reviews by the Editors: Room

Reflection and Review of Room by Emma Donoghue
Written by Courtney McNamara

Trapped. Hidden. Isolated. No escape.  We have all metaphorically experienced these feelings before, but what about literally?  Aside from an half-hour stint in an upstairs room due to a malfunctioning lock, I have never been somewhere I could not physically leave. However, in Emma Donoghue’s novel, Room, Donoghue creates a narrator who is living the most extreme version of captivity: Jack has not left the 11×11 room he was born in for the five years he has been alive.  The most alarming part? Jack is unaware of existence outside of his Room, Wardrobe, Table, Bed, and of course, Ma. A man named Old Nick comes at night from some mysterious place to bring supplies, and the images Jack sees on his television are not real; they only exist in the TV.

The world created by Emma Donoghue is revealed only through the eyes of five-year old Jack, whose perception of reality implodes when on his fifth birthday, his Ma attempts to explain that she came from beyond the walls of the Room and that they need to escape.

When I first understood the premise of Room, I was shocked.  This author was presenting a narrative of abduction told by a child who is completely unaware that he is only seeing 11×11 feet of the entire world. One of the most compelling parts of the work is the contemporary factor: it hits home.  “Ma” was kidnapped from a college campus in the early 2000’s, forced to confinement in a garden shed where she remained for seven years. When she gives birth to the child of her captor, she makes the decision to shield young Jack; she makes the Room the only reality he knows.

The voice of the novel is constructed with grammatical idioms of a young child combined with the literal descriptions of the elements of his child-like world. The reader follows the physical and psychological journey of Jack and Ma, from the details of their confinement, the enlightenment of Jack in regards to reality, their eventual escape and the aftermath of Ma’s decision to raise Jack in a realm of naïveté.

Donoghue begs the most overwhelming social questions and stirs up some of our deepest fears of evil.  She explains on the book’s website, “Children are passionate but unsentimental in dealing with whatever life is handed to them, so I tried to be, too.  I drafted Room in six months; this is the easiest book I have ever written, because I know what I wanted it to be.”

Both moving and paralyzing, with an unlikely narrator that is easy to fall in love with, Room is a novel that will echo in your head long after the words on the page are finished.

It touches fond parts of the heart; not only with the innocence of a child as the narrator, but also with the power of a mother’s love and the uncertainty of our own reality.


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