Emma Donohue’s Room has taken its singular place in my reading experience: Room is the only book that has ever been so suspenseful, so nerve wracking, so heart wrenching, so overwhelmingly intense, and caused my heart to pound so hard that I had to momentarily set it aside to calm down, even though I desperately wanted to know the outcome.
Room is a unique, heartbreaking story of love and survival. Five-year old Jack narrates the events of his world as only a child can, with pure innocence. Many of the items in his life are known by their proper descriptors, such as Room, where he lives, Bed, where he and Ma sleep, Rug, that gets rolled up for exercise time, Sky, of which he can see only a small portion through the skylight in the roof, and Door, which only opens after 9 pm, when Jack is supposed to be in Wardrobe. What is remarkable about this story is that the reader is able to understand right away what Jack has no concept of, that he is a prisoner in Room.
Jack’s mother was 19 when she was abducted from her college campus. She has been locked up in Room for 7 years and Jack is the product of nightly visits from Old Nick. But this story is no Still Missing. Donoghue walks a fine line with expert care; she provides enough information for the reader to understand the disturbing reality of her characters, but she doesn’t wallow in it, or allow the details to overrun her story. The story always remains in its simplest form because to Jack, life in Room is what it is-he doesn’t know any different, and that helps the story retain a sweetness that works beautifully to the contrasting horror of the situation.
The completely engrossing believability of the characters works as magic for this story. Every decision Ma makes, everything she does, seems so completely accurate for how I might act in such a tragedy. She loves her son dearly, works to play with him, teach him, and protect him. Still, she has her own captivity to deal with. She juggles these two enormous burdens with impressive grace. Furthermore, she has the foresight to realize that life in Room is no life at all for Jack. He is growing more curious and precocious every day, and like any other parent, she longs for him to have a better life, which is why she is willing to risk everything for Jack’s freedom.
And though the suspense is in her and Jack’s escape efforts, the life and heart of this story lies within the love between Jack and his mother; which I think most readers will find to be an exceedingly wonderful experience despite the bleak plotline. Once I started this book I voraciously consumed in over the course of two days. I’ll even admit that I might have neglected some of my family duties in order to read this book.
P.S. The last time I visited Costco, this book was available in paperback for a very good price.