Room – Emma Donoghue

I’ve been hearing a lot about Room these days. I knew the general idea before I picked it up and knew I wanted to read it, but I wasn’t going to go out of my way to get it. Luckily (or, perhaps, unluckily, since I’ve already spent way too much money there), a Target just opened up across the street from where I work, so whenever I need some retail therapy I can just pop across the street. So I did one day and I bought Room! (And Bossypants, but that’s another post!)

Room is the story of five-year-old Jack and his mother (who is never named). Jack has spent his entire life in Room, an 11×11-foot space in which his mother has been held prisoner for the past seven years. Through an incredible love for her son, she has managed to create an entire world in Room, and Jack has never known anything beyond it.

But the tender age of five, even as precocious as he us, Jack is too young to realize his mother’s desperation is growing. Soon, she hatches a plan to get them out of Room forever; but will Jack’s age and his reluctance to leave the only world he’s ever known prevent them from escaping?

My immediate thought on completing this book was that it was like one of those really intense Law & Order: SVU cases come to life. Jack’s mother is abducted off the street at the age of nineteen and is kept prisoner for seven years—crazy. But the fact that things like this do actually happen is even crazier to me.

It was really interesting to see this written from Jack’s perspective. His tendency to capitalize almost every noun (Lamp, Plant, Bed, Table, etc.) was slightly irritating, even though I think now that it was because he actually thought those objects had proper names; since he had never been outside of Room to realize that there is more than one table in the world, more than one bed, more than one lamp, he naturally thought that they had names, just as he was named Jack. That’s a detail I definitely never would have thought to include in something like that.

BEWARE: THE REST OF THIS REVIEW (and possibly the comments) WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS.

Something I wasn’t crazy about with this book was that after they do escape about halfway through, the rest is about Jack’s inability to assimilate into the real world. I mean, not complete inability; he’s five, still very malleable, and he’s obviously very smart, so it’s clear that he will assimilate one day. But it’s frustrating that it’s all about how it’s incredibly difficult for Jack—nay, both of them—to assimilate back into the real world, and it ends before they’ve done it.

The ending itself was appropriate: Jack wants to see Room again, so after convincing his mother (which is understandably difficult, since she obviously never wants to see the place where she had been imprisoned for seven years again), the police escort them back. Jack’s mother vomits upon seeing the shed they were imprisoned in, but Jack—back in the one familiar place he knows—says hello, and then goodbye, to everything in Room.

I liked the ending; I did. I just think it came at a very random and anticlimactic time. I loved the first half of the book, with Jack and his mother in Room, and the way she has managed to create an entire world for him in that tiny 11-by-11-foot room. But after they escape, it’s kind of boring—I felt like I kept expecting things to happen, and then they didn’t. It was a lot of low-lying tension, but nothing ever came of it. I suppose it’s true to life in that sense—the climax is over, so then it’s all just a struggle to overcome the trauma they both experienced. But I feel like falling action for the entire second half of the book is not the way to end something. I would have liked to see Jack go to school, make friends, truly begin to experience life outside Room. I guess maybe there could be a sequel, but the ending didn’t feel like it left that opening.

I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. For the first half I was dying to finish it so I could give it a stellar review, but upon finishing it, I’m not sure I feel that way. Maybe I’m missing something there. Friends: If you’ve read it, and loved it (even the second half), what am I missing? Let me know in the comments!

B

P.S. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this book for that Top Ten Tuesday about books you’d like to see made into movies. Although I think the ending would definitely have to be reworked!

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5 thoughts on “Room – Emma Donoghue

  1. I started Room but just couldn’t finish it because of the language. I stumbled over so many words and sentence constructions that it gave me a headache. Then, after reading a full synopsis and reviews much like yours, the rest of the book and ending don’t seem like they were that great. So I feel much better about not finishing it because I don’t think I missed out on anything. A lot of people have raved about it and I guess they didn’t mind the language as much as I did. But oh well, I guess it’s not a book for everyone.

    • Yeah, I wouldn’t say you missed much and I agree that it’s definitely not for everyone. I think I would recommend this, but only to certain people. It just felt a bit like a let down, you know?

  2. I completely agree that it’s not a book for everyone. I really enjoyed “Room” and thought that the second half and the ending was a very clever way of preventing the book from being too… sensationalist, I guess. What more could have happened in Room without resorting to shockingly graphic details? I liked how Donoghue kept it simple.

    I also thought it was great to see a little of what happens after a horrific thing like this happens to a person – I was expecting the book to end with their escape, and was surprised but pleased that it continued.

    Great review though – it’s good to hear different opinions from your own!

    • Thanks! I think the second half of the book was really interesting and I’m glad she did it the way she did, I just had hoped for a little more closure, I guess.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the book (and the review)! 🙂

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