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Room Paperback – International Edition, 2011
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Amazon Best of the Month, September 2010: In many ways, Jack is a typical 5-year-old. He likes to read books, watch TV, and play games with his Ma. But Jack is different in a big way--he has lived his entire life in a single room, sharing the tiny space with only his mother and an unnerving nighttime visitor known as Old Nick. For Jack, Room is the only world he knows, but for Ma, it is a prison in which she has tried to craft a normal life for her son. When their insular world suddenly expands beyond the confines of their four walls, the consequences are piercing and extraordinary. Despite its profoundly disturbing premise, Emma Donoghue's Room is rife with moments of hope and beauty, and the dogged determination to live, even in the most desolate circumstances. A stunning and original novel of survival in captivity, readers who enter Room will leave staggered, as though, like Jack, they are seeing the world for the very first time. --Lynette Mong
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Five-year-old Jack and his Ma live and eat and play and sleep in one room--an 11×11-foot space that is their prison--captives of the terrifying man Jack calls Old Nick. But as Jack grows older and more curious, it becomes clear that the room will not be able to hold him and Ma forever. Michal Friedman shines as Jack; her narration is haunting and compelling in its every inflection and tone. The voice she creates for Jack is so convincing, listeners may even mistake her for an actual child. Her powerful performance is complemented by Robert Petcoff's sinister Old Nick, and Ellen Archer's portrayal of resourceful Ma, whose gentle voice is infused with patience, terror, and hope. The chemistry between the players creates a gem of an audiobook that will haunt listeners long after the story's end. A Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, July 12). (Sept.)
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This story is heavy, intense, and remarkable. It tells the story of 5 year old Jack and his Ma, who are trapped inside of an 11x11 ft room. It is told in Jack's point of view, and how he is learning about the world outside, which he doesn't believe is real.
There is so much more detail that I could go into for a summary of this amazing novel, but I don't want to give anything away. I read ROOM over a course of two days, staying up very late at night to finish the last couple of pages. ROOM is now my favorite book of all time, and if you are wanting to read an emotional rollercoaster of a novel that deals with a heavy topic, ROOM is definitely the one for you
WARNINGS: This book deals with kidnapping, sexual assault, and depression. Foul language and mature themes are explicitly used throughout this novel
I wouldn't consider what I have included as "spoilers" but reader be advised.
I don’t think “Room” is a book anyone in their right mind can say that they “loved”. It was beautifully written and extremely real feeling. That being said, it was very painful for me to read. I had to take breaks from it for a few days just to leave their world. Having two sons with Autism and reading Jack’s thoughts on what he calls, “Outside” felt very much like what I imagine my children feel and think at times. The interactions between Jack, his mother, and new people were reminiscent to our experiences with others who are not familiar with our children. The rushing, the pushing, the impatience, and the frustration towards this child who is always focused on making the “correct” decisions while trying to experience the world and please people.
I loved Ma in Room. She was everything we can hope to be as parents. Her perseverance and undying love for her son that was born of a horrible series of events is just beautiful. The ways she tried to give him answers to every possible question, which if you have ever spent time with a 4-5-year-old... it can be intense to say the least. The creative ways she educated him, kept him happy, and playful was amazing. Ma outside of Room was very raw and real. I could see myself making most of her choices be them mistakes or not. As the reader, we can always say we would have done better. I'm not sure I would have given the circumstances.
After reflecting on the novel, maybe I did love it. Maybe I’m “not in my right mind” having been so emotionally affected by this stunning portrayal of the base lines that make us parents and people. It is certainly something everyone should read. It will change the way you look at your core human interactions and the world at large. Go hug your children folks and be thankful for the safety of the “Room” you choose.
We meet Jack on his fifth birthday and through his eyes we watch how he and Ma survive - by playing, singing, reading, talking, and most of all, from keeping Old Nick, their captor, from getting angry. Jack and Ma live in a tiny world with routines and habits, and for Jack, it is how the world is suppose to be. But when a series of events occur that changes everything, Jack and Ma must adjust and learn a new way to cope. So few books have created such a powerful character we can completely and utterly engage with, yet who provides us with a brilliant study in dichotomies. Given a different set of circumstances, Jack would be just a boy who, readers would abandon soon enough, but Jack's story, horrifying and uplifting, simple and complex, made it near impossible to turn away and put the book down.
Despite the potential pitfalls of such a young narrator, Donoghue makes it work brilliantly. Donoghue manages to balance the voice with keeping the story moving, preventing the reading from become bored with the perspective of a young child. Because Jack is safely inside the wardrobe when Old Nick comes at night, the focus is rarely on the kidnapper. Instead, the reader comes to understand the intensity of the relationship between Jack and Ma - they depend on one another for their survival – and see the effects of long term isolation - physical, mental, and emotional, on both of them. Perhaps most interestingly, we come to understand Ma's choices through his descriptions because we can understand the emotions and implications of the events even if the narrator cannot. There is an underlying horror at the conditions they face and the reality of the situation Ma is in, but it is softened because Jack has no frame of reference for it and does not comprehend all that happens around him. That he can cope is something of a miracle and a testament to our capacity to adapt.
Room is emotionally powerful and pushes us to rethink how we might respond to such circumstances. There is a moment that Donoghue could have left us with a simpler, happy-ever-after story, but she pushes past that to really explore how experience shapes us, defines us, and ultimately the world around us. The simple language that belies the complexity of the topics - isolation, media, consumerism, family, celebrity status and so many others - is a testament to the brilliant writing of Donoghue and her determination to tell the stories of those normally dismissed because they are different.
This novel is the best I've read this year, deserves multiple rereads, and is now among my favorites. A brilliant work of literary art that defies its premise.