Room by Emma Donoghue
Published by Little, Brown, and Company
The surface area of the world is 510,072,000 km2; Jack’s world is eleven feet by eleven feet. In his five years of life, he has never left Room. Jack is Emma Donoghue’s main character in her 2010 novel, Room, an unnerving novel of love and survival that was inspired by the Joseph Frizl case in 2009. Donoghue is a writer whose work is typically housed in the contemporary and historical fiction sections of the library. She wrote the bestselling fiction novel, Slammerkin, and she experienced even more success with this, her most recent publication. Room is an international bestseller, and has won multiple awards: Salon Book Award for Fiction, an NPR Best Book of 2010, Bloomberg’s 2010 Top Novel, and Indies Choice Book Award for adult fiction,
The story begins as Jack turns five years old. Told in his voice, we learn how his world works. He lives with Ma in Room, what he calls the small enclosure. He truly believes that there is nothing peculiar about staying in the one room, for Room is all that there is. Life in Room is routine and structured: Eating time, playtime, sleeping time, TV time, repeat. Ma keeps him entertained at all times. However, when nighttime comes, Ma hides Jack in Wardrobe. She is trying to keep him away from the man who kidnapped her seven years ago, whom Jack calls “Old Nick”, who comes to Room each night.
To Jack, Room is comforting; it’s home. To Ma, it’s the prison that has held her for seven years. After Jack’s birth, Ma used the power of a mother’s love for a child to create some sort of life for Jack in the small space. However, now that he is five years old and his curiosity is peaking, Ma believes he might be old enough to comprehend that there is more to the world than just Room.
From Jack’s point of view, this novel is even more compelling and unique. Jack has a refreshing innocence, however at times this innocence hinders him greatly. Several times while reading the book, I found myself so engrossed in the story that I wished I were there with Jack to tell him what to do. Room is a dark, unsettling tale, and Donoghue has made Room feel terrifyingly real. From the first page, I was entranced. “Room is a book to read in one sitting. When it’s over you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days,” says Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife. Donoghue has created a masterpiece that is exhilarating, shocking, and absolutely riveting. Room is a place that you cannot forget after reading this novel.