Room by Emma Donoghue

Jack has lived his entire life in Room, with only his mother for company. It’s all he’s ever known. His friends are Dora, from TV, and Rug, Bed, and most importantly, Ma. At night, comes Old Nick, the only other person Jack has ever seen, with some supplies. What Jack doesn’t know, is that he and his mother are captives and that there is an entire world Outside Room. As Jack gets older and more curious about the world, Ma realizes that they can’t stay there. It was time for her and Jack to escape.

Told from five-year-old Jack’s perspective, this is easily one of the most compelling and interesting stories I have read in a long time. We are fully enveloped in Jack’s world, learning as he does, feeling as he does. Even though we come in knowing all the things he doesn’t we still discover the world with him, seeing everything in a new light.

I love that most people would have left the story with the breakout, but Donoghue goes beyond that. She gets into the heads of her characters to the point where she thought about what it would be like for them to return to the world. The camera crews, the family reactions, the public reactions, all of it is so thought out and true to life (it’s eerily accurate and not just a little bit of a sad commentary on today’s media and society). How would Jack feel being in Outside? How would Ma feel after so long locked up? How would people view them and respond to their plight?

Some people say it’s gimmicky to write the book from Jack’s perspective. I disagree. I think the only way to really give the proper complexity (what Ma sees as good isn’t necessarily what Jack sees as good because he doesn’t have an understanding of Outside) is to do it this way. Told from the perspective of Ma, I don’t think the story would have been nearly as successful. It would too sad and overwhelming. In this way, there’s still hope and confusion. And we get a perspective we could otherwise never get.

Having read this, I can’t wait to check out some of Donoghue’s other books, in hopes that they will be even remotely as good.

(If you read this and want to go a little further, check out the website for this book for a more interactive experience here.)

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