Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

I started Room by Emma Donoghue a very long time ago, not long after it first came out. At the time, I remember not having much time to read and became very selective with book titles. When the novel didn’t pull me in immediately, I dropped it altogether. Now that I’ve gone back to finish the book years later, I realize I made the wrong decision.

Room is easily one of the most captivating books I’ve read in a very long time. I haven’t stayed up until the early hours of the morning reading since I was a kid, but I just couldn’t put down the book. I was compelled to finish, and I wasn’t going to stop until I knew how it all turned out.

Room is told from the perspective of 5-year-old Jack, who has spent his entire life in captivity with his mother. Unlike other stories that start with a kidnapping, that event took place long before Jack is born. In fact, he has no understanding of the world that exists outside of the garden shed where they are held captive.

In the beginning, Jack celebrates his 5th birthday and plays all of his favorite games with Ma. As he watches television, it becomes clear that Jack is aware of all the things he’s never experienced, but he doesn’t understand these things are real. Stores, cars, trees… these things are all ‘TV’ as far as Jack is concerned. But still, he’s quite content with his little boxed-in reality. Unfortunately, Ma is not. She remembers her life before she was kidnapped and impregnated by her captor. But she does everything she can to make her son’s life as happy and normal as possible. Still, they can’t stay in the shed forever, so Ma makes a plan, and their entire escape hinges on Jack.

Donoghue’s ability to tackle enormously complex themes and life events from the narrative of a 5-year-old boy is impressive. As his mother experiences sexual abuse and worries about their well-being, Donoghue stays true to her socially-stunted 5-year-old narrator and describes the events as only a child might understand them. It is haunting, it is clever, and it creates a unique novel, unlike anything I’ve read before. I recommend everyone give Room a try; as I said, I couldn’t put it down and finished it in record time!

Room is now a major motion picture starring Brie Larson – watch the movie trailer below:

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