Thursday, September 27, 2012

Room a novel by Emma Donoghue

Room A Novel by Emma Donoghue was our book club's pick for September and did we ever have a great discussion!  It's the kind of book that most of us will approach with apprehension and many may find the topic and details too disturbing to finish.  Told through the eyes of five year old Jack, it is the story of his and his mother's captivity in an 11 X 11 room with only a skylight.  For Jack, it is the only world he has ever known, a world filled with small routines, such habits that they are almost rituals, but also imaginative adventures created by a mom who has made her son's survival her only reason to live. Kidnapped when 19, the young woman has been held captive for seven years.  In her mind, Jack is not the result of her constant rapes, but a gift.  To keep that idea pure, she never lets Old Nick (her captor) see the child, keeping the boy safely hidden in the wardrobe each night.

I don't want to spoil the story by revealing too much, but I have to say that the author did an awesome job in writing this emotional story.  Our book club ladies came armed with floor plans to the 11 foot room, plus tape so we could measure out that size ourselves and visualize sitting in that space day after day.  We talked about how the author captured the dichotomy of a boy who had no understanding of the outside world (did not even know that others except evil Old Jack existed) yet had a highly developed imagination.  Filled with stories, he didn't realize the difference between the cartoons and "real" animals he saw on television.

Reviewing this book is difficult because it would be so easy to slip in a spoiler that would ruin it for future readers.  Certainly we've all heard news stories of horrendous captive situations.  What we can't know is the small details behind the minutes, days, weeks, years of imprisonment.  Nor do we truthfully know the emotional fragility that follows the survivors past their rescue.  Donoghue's craftmanship and sensitivity give us a window into all that.  It's not a pleasant read, but it is a read that will leave an impact.

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