Jack is five, and excited about his birthday. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures eleven feet by eleven feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real - only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there's a world outside...
Told in Jack's voice, Room is the story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible. Unsentimental and sometimes funny, devastating yet uplifting, Room is a novel like no other.
There's something about 'Room' that really got to me - not just the poignant story, or the way that it was narrated - but something on a much deeper level. It reminded me of a concept that I used to have a child, after seeing one of those cute, little storage sheds in the back of someone's yard. You know, the kind that look like little houses? Being around five years or or so at the time - the same age as Jack in this novel - I didn't know that those were actually for storing lawnmowers and garden tools, or to use as a workshop. I thought that they were miniature guest 'houses', where visiting family members or friends would stay, if you didn't have enough space in the 'big' house.
You can imagine my surprise the first time I finally got to look inside of one - saw it crowded full of stuff and how tiny it really was. No way could someone comfortably stay in there! Why, our family tent at the time was bigger than that!
So, it's no wonder that this childhood misconception came back to me repeatedly while reading Emma Donoghue's 'Room'. Obviously, I wasn't the only one who's ever had that idea - though, whereas mine was based off of a child's innocent assumption,the idea in the novel was based off of pure malice. Instead of a little house, it became a seven year prison - one that someone (in fact two someones) - managed to make into a home, (however comfortable) after all.
Apart from that main bit, the premise didn't really interest me all that much at first, especially when you tossed in the fact that it's narrated in Jack's voice (and we all know what I think about those kinds of novels - just scroll back to my posts about 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' or 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' - they kind of get on your nerves after a while). This time, however, I found that the narration fit the flow of the story. It wasn't a thriller, or a breath-stopping courtroom drama type - it was just a fantastic story told by the point of view of a boy who learns that his entire life up to now has been somewhat encapsulated - for lack of a better word - and, oh yeah, it's all because of a horrible crime committed by a sick and twisted man.
The bigger premise - how does a five year old deal with the 'real world' after a 'life' inside of said prison - that was what did it for me... what caught my attention and didn't let go right until the end.
Though Jack was undoubtedly my favourite character, I also really admired the strength and courage of his mom. Sure, she had her 'gone away' periods - where the situation was just too much for her and she gave in to her bouts of depression - but had that been me, I think I would have given up a lot sooner... child or no.
I even found the ending fitting - another thing that's usually hit or miss with me - and the novel itself to have been a decent length. A full five stars - though some of that might be because of how relieved I was to finally have consumed something other than the the pure, braincell killing crap that I've been ingesting for the last month or so.
And speaking of non-crap that really makes you think, I can't wait to finish and then jot down my thoughts about my current read - Erik Larson's non-fiction, 'In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin'. A similar premise, when you think about it... Just another story about a life inside of a different kind of prison...