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Best Book I've Read in Years - WOW
on July 4, 2010
I was a fan of Emma Donoghue since reading Slammerkin many years ago.
I started this book this morning and just put it down. I was glad it was a holiday and I had nowhere to go! I just couldn't stop going back to it until it was finished.
I was hooked upon reading the first paragraph, 'Today I'm five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I'm changed to five, abracadabra. Before that I was three, then two, then one, then zero. "Was I minus numbers?"'
And the story of Jack and Ma begins. The entire story is told from the perspective of Jack, a just-turned five-year-old who is living in Room with his Ma. The only thing Jack has known is Ma and Room. His day is spent utilizing the few things they have, the songs and stories his Ma remembers and the five picture books he's had read to him over and over.
Imagine being a parent living in an 11 x 11 foot room for years, trying to survive while keeping your baby growing, safe and entertained. Imagine Jack, a child who has only ever known Ma (and the late night visits from 'Old Nick' who he only sees from his vantage point in a wardrobe). Life is good for him since he knows nothing else. Empty egg shells become a snake when threaded together, empty toilet rolls become a maze when taped together, Phys Ed is sometimes Track which goes around Bed from Wardrobe to Lamp.
For Jack, his days were filled with 'thousands of things to do'; for his mom, her days were filled with the knowledge of what was outside of Room before her captivity.
Two different perspectives, two ways of looking at life.
Donoghue has done an amazing job of letting us think like a isolated, innocent boy whose life is turned upside down when he learns that Outside of Room is a big world. Up until his 5th birthday, his world was balanced, controlled and he missed nothing since he didn't know of anything else. Everything beyond the room was Outer Space. Once he was told that the there was so much more out there, fear of the unknown crept into his world.
What a wonderful job of creating their little world, of letting us into how Ma's imagination taught Jack, kept him safe, and kept him entertained. If you have children and have ever had to wait in a doctor's office or somewhere else for a few hours, it is sometimes an exhausting job of coming up with games to play to pass the time. Imagine that feat everyday, all day for years.
I had such respect for Ma as she taught Jack about so many things in a world he didn't know. Her imagination for passing the time with games using so few resources was incredible. Her love of Jack so deep and primal it made me hug my kids many more times today than usual.
And just when you think that escaping is the best thing for them, imagine what it feels like to a boy who has only known Room.
This was a fantastic story, imaginative, creative, unique and beautifully written. I never tired of reading from Jack's perspective.
I was reminded of what the world could look like from the perspective of a small child. It makes a parent want to be more kind with their words, more respectful of what their child's needs are, and more understanding when things seem confusing.
And if you think this is really contrived and just not possible, just google the name Josef Fritzl - a real life horror far greater than Room.
A wonderful book from an already favorite author.