Room by Emma Donoghu
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Description: Jack is five. He lives in a single, locked room with his Ma.
It has been awhile since I have read a book that I could feel my heart sinking while I read it. This book is about a woman that was kidnapped in her teens and forced to live in a 11×11 foot shed. Her kidnapper routinely rapes her and keeps her locked away secretly from society. As a result, she finds that she has a son that she must parent on her own. All he knows is that locked shed, the place they call Room.
The story is told from the boy’s perspective while he is four and five years old. This gives an unique perspective onto the situation, one that is of interest to those that like psychology, child development, and a sense of self within a designated space (me vs the world). Room contains the boy’s entire life and everything he knows about the world to be true. There is a single plant, a single bed, a single rug, etc. There is no space in his mind for multiples, wasted objects, or other people. For this reason, he calls the single plant, “Plant,” and the single bed, “Bed.” He grows up learning everything from his mother. He lacks common sense, but excels in reading and writing. He has no friends – his friendships are one-way relationships with him and the objects around him.
Try to imagine yourself locked in a shed for years and years with a five year old son. There is nowhere to hide. The questions that he asks his mother cannot be avoided. She must answer everything the best she can. From the child’s perspective, the world doesn’t seem limiting because he doesn’t understand there is more to the world than just Room. For the mother’s perspective, she is juggling from knowledge of the world that she left with the events and routines in Room.
Even though the perspective is told from the son, the mother’s perspective starts to be exposed during the second half of the book. The mother really hates Room, yet her son loves it because it is his entire world. Obviously his mother would prefer to have not been kidnapped, but her son doesn’t understand her thinking. There is a huge separation in each of their concepts of reality. They are in it together, experiencing the same stimuli, but they react to it completely differently.
It’s a book that some would feel uncomfortable reading, due to the subject matter it is based on. However, it is also a book about hope, consequences, and reality vs imaginary. The tone is similar to “The Lovely Bones” in that it is somber and melancholic, with a hint of possible justice down the road. It was emotional for me, but it is not something I regret reading. It allowed me to really identify the psychological issues that these two characters experienced and reflect upon my own issues I discovered in them.