The premise of Emma Donoghue’s novel, Room, is certainly off-putting. The child of a young woman and her kidnapper is being raised by his mother in an eleven-by-eleven foot prison located in the kidnapper’s backyard. And the kidnapper has visiting privileges. Jolly, yes?
Ok, so now that you know the worst, I can tell you why you should read this remarkable novel.
The novel is narrated by the child, Jack, which could be annoying, but in Donoghue’s capable hands is brilliant.
From the limited perspective of a five-year-old, all seems well in Jack’s world. He is happy. He has an extensive if uneven vocabulary and an active imagination. He loves Dora the Explorer and hates green beans.
He and his “Ma” have a close relationship. She maintains a daily regime for him that includes Phys Ed, reading, drawing, and nap time. But early on, despite the seemingly normal activities, we realize something is not quite right about Jack’s home life.
Ma never talks about her past or explains to her son that they are actually prisoners in Room. For Jack, Room is the entire world, along with Wardrobe, Rocker, Skylight, and Lamp. But it becomes increasingly hard for his mother to keep up the illusion. Ma knows the time has come to explain and escape.
Suddenly at age five, everything Jack thought he knew about home, identity, and reality is called into question.
An exquisite novel about love and the meaning of existence that transcends the subject matter.