Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

Book six on my quest to read all the 2011 Alex Awards.

This is the one that I was least excited to read. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that I kind of dreaded it. As a rule, I don’t like to read books that deal with really dark realistic human evil. They scare me and freak me out and make me want to bolt the doors and never leave the house. Give me a vampire or zombie any day over someone who would kidnap a young lady, lock her in a room, and make her his sex-slave.

Having said all that, I did enjoy this book. This was more of a survival story than an abuse story. I thought having Jack, the 5 year old son, tell the story was a smart move. It infused this story with much needed innocence and optimism. We are spared disturbing details while not being spared the fact that they obviously happened. For instance, we aren’t told what Old Nick does with Ma at night while Jack is hidden in Wardrobe, but we know that Jack often falls asleep counting bed squeaks. Still horrifying and real, but not graphic.

I really loved the relationship between Jack and his mother. The mother is an amazingly resilient woman who managed to create as much normalcy as she could for her son in a situation that was anything but normal. Their struggles once they leave Room were so heartbreaking. How does one re-enter society when they’ve been locked in a small room for almost a decade? How does one enter society when they thought the entire world consisted of only one room?

I found the reactions of the outside people to be a little odd. Some were spot on. Like Ma’s father who can’t stand to look at his grandson because he can’t get past the situation in which he was created. But others I felt strained belief. The grandmother who doesn’t get why Jack doesn’t know how to play in a playground and doesn’t seem to want to play with him to show him how. The Aunt and Uncle who will only buy Jack one thing at the store. Why did the extended family not receive therapy too? It seems to me that Ma’s doctor would have had sessions with them so they would know how to deal with Ma and Jack better.

I had a final thought while surfing through the reviews on Many reviewers were horrified that Ma still breastfed Jack for 5 years.They thought there were a gratuitous number of references to it in the novel. I was stunned by this reaction. It seemed so obviously an act of comfort. When Jack felt out of control or unbearably lonely he would nurse. Furthermore Ma is very concerned with Jack's nutrition and breast milk is so full of nutrition it made even more sense why she wouldn't have stopped. I'm irritated with those reviewers. Although, I have to say, some of them made me laugh.

It certainly wasn't a perfect book, the second half wasn't as consistent as the first, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Book Source = Library Copy

Other 2011 Alex Award Reviews:

The Radleys


Belgie said...

This story of Jack and Ma who live confined in garden shed/prison by Old Nick is a spectacular insight into children with sensory perception issues. The first couple of chapters were a sensory issue for me because of the very distinct way Jack (the narrator) who is 5 speaks. After finally getting used to his dialect I was intrigued to the point I couldn't put the book down. I read this novel in three seperate sittings within 2 days. It is AMAZING. I would reccomend the story to anyone who is interested in what some of the possible developmental effects of abuse & neglect are and how that plays out in behavior/self esteem from the perspective of the victim. What is normal? What does normal look like when what we perceive as normal is no longer a socially acceptable norm? Very thought provoking!

Facebook Status said...

A perfect synchronization of innocence, emotions and sentiments --- That's my definition of room... Kudos to Emma Donoghue for writing such a lovely book. From the first page itself, you start bonding with Jack and his Ma. I cherished every word, every sentence of this book... Undoubtedly, it tops my most favorite book list... Believe me, you will never regret buying this book.

Seriously, Room is a book to treasure... :)