Room by Emma Donoghue
Originally, I saw a preview for this movie before I found out it was a book. I’ve had it on my TBR list since then and have managed to encourage others to read it before I got to it. One of my friends warned me that the story is odd in a way that is narrated by a 5-year-old. If you know anything about the premise of this story, the 5-year-old (Jack) has lived his whole life inside one room. His speech and understanding is extremely limited and unique. I became nervous to read it, wondering how this would impact my experience. Well.. it didn’t, and I am glad. This really is an interesting take on life of imprisonment and what it takes to survive.
For Ma (I don’t know that we ever learn her real name) it is a story of being kidnapped at the age of 19 and kept in a room for 8 years. How she survived half of that time all on her own, and how bringing Jack into the world changed things. For Jack it’s a story of what that kind of life can do to a child, and how growing up in the real world feels a lot like being trapped in a different room.
Jack and Ma have so many activities to fill each day, an incredible variety. I cannot imagine how she has kept her head on this whole time. Sometimes an hour with nothing to do can feel like forever. I think having Jack provided a way to fill the time, and a point of focus for her. I can’t imagine being trapped in one room for years, and of course with the disgusting things we don’t want to talk about taking place every few nights. Ma does an incredible job of raising Jack in the conditions they are in, although he has a very hard time understanding that the world consists of so much more than he knows.
Jack’s story really starts when they finally get out. He has sever attachment issues, and obviously a wide hole (a crater) in understanding the world as everyone else knows it. It seems to me that when they get out of Room, Ma has a hard time with the strong connection Jack has formed with her. Of course, she loves him and her motherly instincts are still there, but she seems slightly less engaged in their relationship. I think this too is understandable given that she finally got her life back. Or maybe I am reading too much into this, it is told from the perspective of a 5-year-old.
I am sure this is a very dulled version of how this happens in real life. And honestly there were much better accommodations in Room than I imagine take place in real life, so I find this to be a very good PG storytelling of how cruel our world really is. In watching Jack, we learn how Ma copes with what has happened to her, and the journey still in front of Jack to adjust to the whole world.