Review: Room (Emma Donoghue)


I remember the first time I read the synopsis for Room, a few years back. It was the month’s chosen read for one of my Goodreads groups. I remember thinking how intriguing the synopsis sounds and adding it on my wishlist, but that was it. I never actually picked up a copy. Until I found someone in yet another Goodreads group that had books to sell/swap, and Room was on her list. I decided it’s time to go for it, and bought Room along with some other books that have been on my wishlist for a while.

Of course, again as I have so many books lining up to be read, I didn’t actually think I would be reading it right away. And yet, the previous owner was so kind and she wished me happy reading and I felt bad about planning to shelve the books away unread until an undefined period (likely once I’m done with my 30 before 30 project), so I decided I’d at least start on one book, and slowly go through it. I picked up Room.

This was both a mistake and a good decision, as I ended up reading the whole book through on the same day. It was impossible to put down, I just had to know what happens next. I’ve read several synopses and reviews of the book, so I knew what place Room was, and I knew they would escape at some point, but the book still surprised me and kept me on edge.

The biggest hype about Room, of course, is that it is narrated by a 5-year-old boy. Some people hated it, some people adored it, some people found it hard to believe. I fall somewhere in between. There were definitely times I felt really annoyed with Jack, and other times when I just wanted to cuddle him and tell him everything’s going to be okay. Just like how I would feel about any 5-year-old that comes in my vicinity, really. Was it hard to believe that Jack could narrate a story like this? No. Sure, there’s the argument that no 5-year-old would talk like that, but then again Jack doesn’t talk much with other people, merely thinks a lot. Now, who would know what is REALLY going on in a 5-year-old’s mind?

Another thing that seemed to annoy quite a lot of people (based on reviews) is the part where Jack tells you episodes of Dora the Explorer. Which can be very annoying, of course, as the show tends to be repetitive and thus irritating for adults. Which brings me back to how believable Jack really is. He’s a 5-year-old, of course he loves Dora, and repetition! And then there’s the fact that Dora the Explorer actually plays a huge part in the escape.

But enough about Jack, I stand in awe of Ma, who is a really amazing woman. So amazing in fact, that if she hadn’t finally crashed somewhere towards the end, I would render this book impossible. This is a 20-something girl who experiences the most devastating thing that could possibly happen, and yet she is so strong-willed, so determined, and so creative in raising Jack. Gosh, the amount of strength she must have to keep going, the imagination she has in coming up with stories, explanations, activities. She’s a real role model. And it’s okay that she finally gave up for a bit. Because she deserved it. And the best part is she pulled herself together again, which makes her even more amazing.

Room Book Cover Room
Emma Donoghue
361 pages

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

If I had my way, I'd spend the rest of my days at the corner of a coffee shop, reading, writing, and talking to the one I love.

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