Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I just finished Room by Emma Donoghue, and boy did that freak me out. Remember a couple years ago when that guy in Austria had locked that woman up and kept her in a room for years and they'd had kids and it was a huge mess? When I heard that story, I was horrified of course, but also curious about the mechanics of keeping a woman and children hidden for years. Room answers some of those questions. And also, the narrator is a 5 year old boy, which is both interesting and frustrating.

Basically, this little boy, Jack, and his mother, Ma, have been kept in an 11x11 reinforced garden shed. The mom was kidnapped when she was 19, and has been there for 7 years. And all day, every day, she and her little boy are stuck. Anyone who has spent 10 minutes with a toddler knows how limited their attention spans are and how difficult it is to entertain them, but this mom has been doing it all by herself for years. And except for the bad scary kidnapper, his mom is the only person Jack's ever seen. I thought the author was so creative to show the different things they did every day - they have 5 books, and the mom has invented all sorts of games and activities to keep the kid occupied. They have P.E. time, and the mom has taught him all the songs and stories she knew from her life before she was kidnapped. They have a T.V., but they only watch for a little bit a day. Can you even imagine? No privacy, no alone time ever, but also your only human contact is with your 5 year old and your kidnapper.

No spoilers here, because it happens pretty early on, but they do escape, and if possible, things got even more interesting. From a psychology perspective, I loved how they addressed issues I never would have thought of - Jack has crazy spatial problems, because he's never been outside of the room. Because he's not used to being in bigger spaces, he's always falling and walking into things. He's never seen stairs before, and he can't walk down them. He gets horribly sunburned. He has no idea how to relate to people, and his speech patterns are completely off, because he's not used to referring to anyone besides his mom and the bad guy.

This book really stuck with me. I read it in about a day and a half, just to get through the intense parts of the story, and then I went back and read parts of it again for more detail/thinking time. I love a book that has interesting characters, so it was a get-under-my-skin kind of read because after I was done reading, I had a burning desire to know more. What happens to Jack? Does he forget his early years? Does he grow up succesfully? Even more, I wanted to know about the mom. I would read the whole book again from her perspective. I had a book when I was in middle school that was called Sisters/Hermanas and one side of the book was from the perspective of a rich white girl, and then you flipped it upside down and read it from behind, and it was the story of a poor prostitute. Both sides led up to their eventual meet-up. Long story short, I wish Room was like that, with one side being the mom's story. What happens to her too?

No real complaints - when a book makes me physically uncomfortable, the writer is doing her job. If you're in the mood for some claustrophobia, pick this one up. Read it by a window.

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