Room is the most upsetting, disturbing, heartbreaking, gutwrenching, nauseating book I have ever read.
I loved it.
Told from the perspective of five-year-old Jack, Room is about a girl who was kidnapped when she was 19. Her captor locked her up in an escape-proof garden-shed-turned-tiny-apartment hidden in his back yard, and kept her as his sexual slave. (Thankfully there are minimal sexual scenes/descriptions.) Throughout her seven-year captivity he has impregnated her twice; the first, a girl, does not survive, the second is Jack. And Jack is wonderful.
While reading this truly gruesome tale, it’s easy to forget that you are not in fact in the mind of a five-year-old boy whose entire world is this garden shed (which he fondly refers to as “Room”, hence the title) and who, until their great escape halfway through the book, knows nothing of “Outside”. At first I found it hard to believe a five-year-old boy would be able to form such sophisticated thoughts, like author Emma Donoghue was overreaching a bit, but it’s clear Jack’s mother (known only as “Ma” throughout the story) taught him a great deal from books, TV and her own memory.
The truly amazing part of the book, filled with the best one-liners from Jack, is after they escape (which went a lot smoother than I expected) and must acclimate to the world outside Room. They are surrounded by a media storm of attention, family who thought their daughter/sister was dead, and countless germs and noises and lights they were never exposed to in Room. Reading Jack’s descriptions of all the new things in Outside, like people other than Ma and grass and rain and food and the mall and cars and everything else he thought only existed “in TV” is truly incredible. The alarming thing is, all “Ma” wanted to do for seven years was get out and all Jack wants to do after they escape is go back.
I don’t want to say how it ends since I have already given a lot away, but I can tell you this much: I wanted to keep reading.
Next up: She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb, one of those bestsellers I’m reading about 10 years late.
PS Thank you to my friend for recommending this book, and thank you to my sister for being my own personal Amazon.