Room is Emma Donoghue’s ninth and breakout novel, narrated by a 5 year old boy, Jack. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Room is a truly brave and inspiring story.
It all begins when a young girl is abducted at the tender age of 19, and since she is repeatedly raped, she gives birth to a boy and names him Jack. Their lives are confined to the twelve square feet room. Since Jack is born and raised in that confined area, he is unaware of the outside world, and his life is restricted within the walls of the Room. Ma and Jack live together in that little piece of land, and Ma very beautifully devotes all her mental energy to teach, nurture and entertain her little boy, and even preserves her sanity meanwhile. They have Plant, Rug, Wardrobe, TV, Meltedy Spoon for company, and it is heart rendering how each of these items (and many more) are treated as actual characters inside the Room. They play little games, they create their own poems, they make word sandwiches, they sing Kylie and Lady Gaga, and they watch Dora the Explorer. They do all the things together, which a normal mother son duo would do, except there’s a buried melancholia that makes your heart melt.
Reading this book will make you understand their private little world- the one which they are so helplessly caught in (and Jack is unaware until Ma makes him realize this). The narrative is very absorbing, honest, and beautiful- filled with moments when you find yourself gasping in horror, and moments when you are thankful to God that at least Ma and Jack have each other.
Most nights, Ma’s kidnapper visits the Room, and she hides Jack in the Wardrobe so that he remains safe. Jack is unable to decipher whatever’s going on between Him and Ma, while they sleep in the same bed, and writes, “I always have to count till he makes that gaspy sound and stops”. On other days, Ma hits depression (surviving on pills), and then Jack is left to himself and his small devices. The description is so moving that you almost want to get inside the book and rescue Ma and Jack, and make them safe.
The book loses the intensity somewhere in the middle, but again gets back to its original strength after a few pages. Ma and Jack devise a plan to break free from their monstrous captivator, and finally succeed. Thus begins the time to settle Outside. The setbacks, the novelty of the situation, and troubles bewilder Jack- he isn’t used to the vastness of the world- the freedom, the candies, the trees, and the sky. His introduction to the Outside is nicely documented.
Room celebrates the spirit of resilience, and the most beautiful bond of a mother and her child. Brilliantly executed, Room is a journey of these two central characters from a life of solitary confinement, to once again finding a place in the world. Donoghue powerfully concludes the book and ultimately leaves you satisfied and intrigued.
Room is a book that can be viewed through countless lenses- sociological, psychological and political. Out and out, Room is a remarkably unique and memorable novel.