Reading this discussion makes me think some of you grew up in your own Rooms. In our sheltered lives, it is difficult to place ourselves in the position of people living terrible lives. The mother was being raped on a nightly basis and feared that her son might be raped and killed every day, for many years. She kept the boy alive and strong, and she herself was powered by her will to survive and escape. The boy was a hero many times in the book. After the escape, the main conflict is between her hatred of what happened to her and the boy's love of his life with mom in the one place that she made safe and loving for him. I understand that everyone's a critic, but this book is full of positive and uplifting themes, set in a background of slavery, rape, and fear of death, then in a world of ignorant critics second-guessing every action taken by this woman, when she was enslaved and they were not. The best example is the callousness of the TV interview, which I thought was an excellent reflection of modern reality. I enjoyed every word of this very powerful and emotional book.
From Jack's point of view, she was a better mother when they were in captivity. He was not unhappy there, after all--she was. As far as he was concerned, he had all he needed, which was primarily her. She's been longing for space, connections with other people and privacy, but he hasn't. As Briafcliff points out, there is a certain amount of normal child development involved there, too--very young children think their mothers are flawless Goddesses, and as they get older the imperfections start to show. In the case of Jack and his mother, her superhuman-ness was even more pronounced than for most children, and of course her fall from grace much more abrupt. In addition, she broke down after they escaped in a way she never would have been able to when they were in captivity. She could be "gone" for a day in the room, but if she had completely checked out or committed suicide, she knew Jack would be at Old Nick's mercy--either held captive without her or killed. But because she did such an amazing job of shielding him from the brutality of their situation, he doesn't have any way of understanding her desperation to be out of the room or why she doesn't miss it at all--to him, it just feels like rejection. I was disappointed in the reunions with her family too, but I think that was the point. She had spent seven years with very little else to do but long for them. They had been through their own hell too, but that wasn't apparent to her when she saw that they had moved on with their lives as though she was dead. On some level she might have been prepared for that, but of course in reality she was not. So her parents divorce, her mother remarries, her brother partners and has a child, her dad moves to another country....they'd suffered, but they had also lived. Without her. So her mom is insensitive enough to want to introduce her to her new husband the first time they see each other, her brother is thrilled to see her but has a family of his own, and her dad just flatly rejects her. If you look at it from their point of view, it all makes sense (except her dad)--they're glad she's back, but there's no blueprint for how to bring her back into their lives. If you look at it from her point of view, it's both an enormous let down from what she's been dreaming about every day for seven years and, at least to some extent, a betrayal. Life after captivity was not what Jack's mother or the reader hoped for, but that was certainly intentional.
I think that Emma Donoghue wrote it that way on purpose. While in confinement, Ma and Jack have a very close relationship. Spending years in a tiny room together, especially since it is Mother and son, forced Ma and Jack to have a close relationship...quite literally. But the moment they encounter the outside world, perhaps at the time where Jack needed his Ma the most, there seems to be a disconnect between Ma and Jack. Mostly because Ma is busy dealing with stress rehabilitation, depression, and adjusting to a very different world that she left behind 7 years prior. I noticed there was a disconnect too, but Im pretty sure it was written that way intentionally.
I recently finished this book and cant really say I LIKED it. It is a work of fiction and I guess that is why I have trouble with it. I don't understand the point of it. Was it supposed to really be a story about this boy or was it just a gimmick. It felt contrived and useless to me at times. I wanted it to have a deeper soul. It felt pointless at the end. I put it down thinking it was a waste of my time because nothing was accomplished. I liked the idea that the book was as much about the ordeal and escape as it was about the survival but I felt that I wanted Jack to turn 6 and I wanted to have him mature beyond the confines in a more profound way.. I wanted him to hate the room!
Agree - breastfeeding was a sensible response to their situation where Ma had to ration their cereal at breakfast by counting . (And often wasn't hungry herself - traditional excuse of women without enough food to feed family.) Plus, a natural bond between them, a pleasant experience for both in ghastly environment. Another person has commented that breastfeeding (which has a contraceptive effect, tho not infallible) would have supplemented the Pill (if she ever had it - as we know poor 'Ma' had already had a stillborn child before Jack so I doubt 'Old Nick' was being cooperative in this department. Fritzl wasn't.) I imagine that 'Ma' was only too aware of what bringing up two children in 'Room' would be like.
How can breasfeeding gross anyone out? Before formula, before the domestication of goats, sheep, and cows, human babies were breastfed just as all other mammal children. They still are to this day! Carrying on until 5 is a bit out of the norm (tho not unheard of) but wasn't their situation out of the norm? Ma sorted that out once she and Jack were in a normal environment. And Jack coped.