Room is one of the most thought-provoking, yet emotionally draining novels of the year. Emma Donoghue's tight control when it comes to rendering dialogue is vivid and precise, resulting in a gripping experience as we see the world through a five-year-old's point of view.
This novel will not be for everyone. It has disturbing themes that may creep some people out. The main characters are involved in a situation similar to what happened with Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was kidnapped and concealed for eighteen years before being discovered last summer. The subject matter is touchy and hard-hitting. Fans of authors such as Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain will find themselves in for another mind-blowing novel from a fresh new book the literary world can't stop talking about.
One of the best things about Room is the way Donoghue gets into the mind of her five-year-old protagonist, Jack. The readers see the world through his eyes. Jack grew up in a shed and never experienced the outside world. He only knows his mother and the man he calls "Old Nick" who creeps into their room at night. He watches TV and thinks that his room is the only reality in the world. Stores, schools, etc. are all fictional and made just for TV. While reading his voice takes a little getting used to, it's handled masterfully and done well. Take the book's opening, for example:
"Today I'm five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I'm changed to five, abracadabra. Before that I was three, then two, then one, then zero. 'Was I minus numbers?'"
This is the type of wording that allows us to think, "Yeah, a five-year-old could actually think like that." I always hate when books and movies have the kids saying things so far beyond their years that it feels unbelievable. This felt very natural to me.
After the book explores the sliver of life available to Jack and his mother, it moves on to something more hopeful: Freedom. Our main characters are able to escape the man keeping them captive and re-enter the real world. Again, Donoghue took the time to think about how such people might react. After being by themselves for so long--and in Jack's case, his entire life--it's hard to be surrounded by so many people again. There are little things we take for granted every day. We don't need sunglasses and the highest SPF sunscreen to step outside for a couple of minutes. We know how to walk up and down steps. There are common sense things that we don't even think about. We just know. Jack's struggle to adapt to the world is the heart of Room.
If you want something that will make you sit and reflect once you're done, check out this amazing novel. The characters and scenarios will stick with you long after the last page is turned.