I’m still working through the amazing and extensive list of reading suggestions left on this post from ages ago from you all. “Room” by Emma Donoghue was one of them–and I love this book.

It’s also been at least a decade since I posted my last book review, so: the jig’s up. Let’s read!

The subject matter of this book is quite dark: a 19-year-old woman is kidnapped from her college campus as she heads to the library, and is taken by force to a sound-proof shed in a man’s back yard. She tries to escape through the skylight (but the glass is unbreakable), by digging through the floor (but there’s a chain link fence underneath) and by attacking her captor when she hears the ‘beep’ indicating he’s entering the security code–but nothing works. She is imprisoned there for 7 years, and a couple years into her captivity, gives birth to a son on the rug: Jack, the narrator of this story.

When the story begins, five-year-old Jack is living in what he calls “Room,” not knowing that there is anything outside the cork-tiled 11 by 11 foot space he and his mother share. They are together constantly, his Ma teaching him how to read, engaging him in “Phys Ed” to keep him active and moving, and a plethora of imaginative games. There are 5 books that they read over and over again, and Jack loves watching “Dora the Explorer” on their TV. Once a week, their captor “Old Nick” brings them some groceries and what Jack knows as “Sundaytreat,” which could be a piece of chocolate, a pair of jeans, or a bottle of pain-killers for his Ma, whose teeth are rotting and causing her daily pain.

His Ma protects him fiercely. Every night when Old Nick comes, she hides Jack in the wardrobe. Old Nick knows that Jack is there but has never seen his face, and even though Jack can hear him, he wonders just how real Old Nick is. In fact, the boundaries between imagination and reality are a huge theme in this book: Jack sees things on TV, but thinks they are pretend. Reality for him is the stain on the rug where he was born, or the lollipop he gets for Sundaytreat. Jack personalizes everything and has relationships with the scant objects in the room like his favorite “meltedy spoon.”

I was a little more than nervous going in to this book. I can’t read or watch anything too violent or dark, because images get stuck in my head and stay with me for so long. I tried to read “The Lovely Bones” but couldn’t do it even though it was very well written (and still have a horrible imprint of the first few pages in my brain) ; I couldn’t do “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series even though it was also very well written and engaging. But this book, I devoured with no reservations. The facts presented are dark and disturbing–there’s not getting around that–but seeing it from the naive eyes of a 5 year old makes this book a fresh, lively, and frequently funny read.

I was also wondering during the first few pages if this unique child’s point of view would get tiresome as the story progressed. But it doesn’t! You are able to interpret what’s really happening even when Jack doesn’t, and the added perspective of his adds a charm and a beauty that make the book uplifting and wonderful. Unbelievably, this book is tender and endearing and lifted my mood when I picked it up.

I won’t tell you what happens–and it had me on the edge of my seat–but ultimately it’s not a downer. Promise. Pick this up, and hopefully you’ll love it like I did.

8 thoughts on “Room

  1. Suzie

    That sounds like a great book. I will order it. The Lovely Bones is one of my all-time favorite books, it really makes you think. It’s really not that bad either. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I have the series I just have a few to read before it. What I like about my kindle is I can order the book, have it on there and not forget about it.

  2. sarah k @ the pajama chef

    this is one of those that i’ve been afraid to read too, so i’m glad to hear that it isn’t bad. i made the mistake of listening to the lovely bones on cd during a long car trip once…it was terrible! it was january, snowy, and dark outside and i was listening to that story! messed up. so scary. never again 🙂

  3. Veronica

    Great review! I too found Jack enchanting and it was brilliant to write it from his perspective. I melted a little when you mentioned his “meltedy” spoon. I listened to it and it was wonderful to hear his voice and how he said “meltedy” soooo cute. There are definite disadvantages of listening to a book (you don’t use your imagination very much!), but this was one done very well and I too really enjoyed the book. Love your reviews, as always.

  4. joanne

    Okay…so this is going to be the book that replaces 50 Shades of Grey in my life! (okay so maybe I just cried a little at thinking of replacing 50 shades…it happens) Off to Amazon order it!

  5. Kate

    Jenna – speaking of books, I wanted to let you know about a book which I would LOVE to have had when my babies were little. If you know Weston Price, Nourishing Traditions philosophy of food and eating you will love this step by step guide. There are so many The other big thing I did crazy amounts of research on when I was pregnant was vaccinating. This looks like a good new resource. Much more than the right stroller, looking into how to feed and a philosophy of vaccinating was the most important thing I did pre-pregnancy (plus Bradley classes!).

    1. Jenna Post author

      Oooh-I’ve never heard of Weston Price before. Thanks so much for the recommendation! And by the way, my midwife just told me I need to find a pediatrician–which makes total sense, but hadn’t even occurred to me before if you can believe it! I’m a little intimidated by the process.

  6. Biz

    I used to be such an avid reader – I haven’t read a book from cover to cover in years. I’ll have to see if my library has that book – turns out I only check out cookbooks! 😀


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