Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

When Room, which was written by Emma Donoghue, came out in September 2010, I observed its sensational popularity and decided that I definitely would not read it. Then my curiosity got the best of me, and I'm glad.

Here’s the story line: Girl is kidnapped at the age of 19 by an older dude (not sure of his age) and held captive in a sealed-off 11’x11’ room for seven years, during which time he pretty much rapes her every night. He provides very bare essentials - food, kitchen, bathroom, TV, skylight - and little else. The girl conceives and gives birth to two children, one (a girl) dies shortly after birth; the second, Jack, is raised for five years in Room.

There are several things about Room that make it a compelling read. First, just the idea of not seeing a single thing outside a small cell for seven years (except that on a TV screen). Then, imagine trying to raise a child in that situation. Donoghue was incredibly brave to take on such a storyline, and I was equally impressed at how well she handled it. The story is made particularly fascinating, although sometimes irritating, because it is told from the perspective of five-year-old Jack.

Jack’s voice and Donoghue’s writing give us a unique, and often enchanting and shocking perspective on “normal.” To Jack, Room was normal. Hiding in a wardrobe and counting his teeth to pass the time while his mother was raped was normal. Drinking milk from his mom’s breast at the age of five was normal. Jack’s descriptions of his life in Room stirred up so many thoughts and emotions never before considered that I found myself re-thinking life, and what we consider normal. Honestly, I sometimes had to stop reading because it just became too much, too horrifying, too provocative. Click on Read More Below...
Author Emma Donoghue
"Ma," as Jack calls her, speaks up occasionally, which punctuates her daunting position. She has to care for, educate, entertain and create normalcy for her child in a virtual coffin, with spare food, a couple of toys, five children’s books, one wall picture, and a TV that (OMG!) only gets a couple of channels. The fact that she actually does a commendable job, and Donoghue’s descriptions of how she does it are especially intriguing aspects of the book. Sometimes Jack describes, Ma as “gone,” as she slips into depression and almost catatonic “escape,” sleeping for days, “leaving” Jack to entertain and care for himself.

Disclosing much more about the story plot would be a spoiler, but I will say that at some point it breaks down somewhat, and becomes not as satisfying.  However, that may have more to do with the fact that there really aren't happy endings in those types of situations. For a really clever look inside Room, click here and follow directions. Seriously, you’ll want to see and hear this.

I also want to mention that Room may have been inspired by the Josef Fritz case. That’s the Austria guy that locked his daughter in the basement and fathered seven children by her over a period of 24 years. Wiki has a pretty good coverage of that story and it is equally repugnant and fascinating. Fritz actually claims that three of the young children are left on he and his wife’s doorstep, so they legally adopt the children and raised them. Of course it eventually comes out that the three kids have four more siblings living in their basement, and Fritz has the audacity to defend himself! What brand of therapy can reconcile all that! Can’t wait for that true story to come out in a book.

So. Read Room. But go into it knowing that you’re probably going to experience astonishment, intrigue, anger, a tsunami of emotions, and disappointment. All good stuff.

1 comment:

  1. A perfect synchronization of innocence, emotions and sentiments --- That's my definition of room... Kudos to Emma Donoghue for writing such a lovely book. From the first page itself, you start bonding with Jack and his Ma. I cherished every word, every sentence of this book... Undoubtedly, it tops my most favorite book list... Believe me, you will never regret buying this book.

    Seriously, Room is a book to treasure... :)