Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Reads: Room by Emma Donoghue

When I left for vacation, I didn’t have this one with me. I didn’t even have it on my “intend to read” list anywhere.  One of our travelling companions happened to be reading it and I recognized it from the best seller shelf.  I happened to ask if it was good and my friend gushed about it.  Later that evening, there was a knock on my room door and she was there with the book.  “Do you want to read it?” she asked, “It’s a really fast read and soooo good”   I said sure and promised to read it fast for her because it was a library book for a library in a different province.
This was two days well spent, reading on my balcony while babies napped!
Room is the story of Jack and his mom, told from the perspective of 5 year old Jack.  Eight years earlier, his mother had been snatched from the street near her college and had since been kept in an 11 x 11 foot soundproofed cell, “room”, in the backyard of her captor, where he repeatedly used her for his own pleasure.  Jack is her second child with this monster, the first having died in childbirth.
Room is the only world Jack knows.  He has a TV and thinks that everything outside of Room is “outer space” and not real.  His mother has taken great pains to protect him from their captor – completely isolating him from the man by never letting them see each other.  She has also worked hard to teach Jack how to read and care for himself. He does not know that they are prisoners…he just knows that this is his world.
The day after Jack’s 5th birthday, his mother tells him the truth of their situation…and formulates an escape plan for them.   Jack doesn’t want to leave Room but he wants to please his mother – whom he loves more than anything else – so he goes along with it.  First, they feign serious illness to try to get him out of the room and to a doctor so he can run away.   When the captor refuses, phase two of the plan comes into play and Jack “dies”.  The mother screams at the captor and tells him exactly how she needs the “body” (wrapped in a rug) to be disposed of.  The captor loads Jack into the bed of his truck and drives off.  It takes 3 stoplights for Jack to wriggle from the rug, but within moments, he is out of the bed of the truck and running to the first people he sees to reveal his story.  The captor tries to snatch him back, but Jack finds his voice just in time to cause the man to bolt.
The police quickly rescue the mother and then the long journey to rehabilitating them to the outside world begins.   The mother is overjoyed to be free and, many times, fails to see how the outside world is affecting her little boy.  Bit by bit, the reader sees Jack struggling to acclimate to his new surroundings.  What he wants more than anything is the protection of “Room” and to have his mother back to himself.   Seeing how Jack learns about his new world, through his young eyes, is an incredible journey.   Just when you start to believe that Jack may be forever scarred, the book wraps and leaves the reader knowing that everything will be just time.
When I finished reading Room, I knew it was a book I needed.   It is so brilliant and stunning that it sucked me right in.  I haven’t been this drawn in since I read Time Travellers Wife, so I was long overdue for that kind of engagement with a book.  Reading this book was definitely a highlight of my vacation. 
Highly recommended.  HIGHLY recommended.
Just read it.  Now.

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