Written by: Emma Donoghue
Published By: Back Bay Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I had heard terrific things about Room, a movie based on a novel by Emma Donoghue and so, I rented the film. I found all of the great things I had heard were spot on and I loved the film. What was the next logical step? Purchasing the book the movie was based upon, of course.
Room is a novel written in the perspective of a five-year-old boy named Jack. As we begin, we learn that Jack was born and bred in an outdoor shed, his mother abducted years ago by someone Jack calls Old Nick. Jack’s mother has done everything she can to create a happy life for her son, the one being who makes her want to go on living. In an effort to keep him safe, she hides him from view whenever her tormenter comes to visit, making Jack stay in a wardrobe until Old Nick leaves.
Jack’s mom invents a world in which the only things that exist in reality are the items that can be found within the walls of “Room.” Everything else - everything Jack sees on television, for example – is not real. Jack seems fine with this explanation most times and enjoys the games his mother plays with him. To the reader, it is obvious that these games are designed to exercise Jack’s body as well as mind, keeping him sharp and healthy.
But one day, upon finding out that her abductor has lost his job, Jack’s mother realizes that it is just a matter of time before Old Nick stops providing even the simplest of things for them such as food and electricity. She decides it is time to plan for Jack’s escape into the world beyond the four walls of “Room.” This means telling Jack the truth about their situation. But even if Jack can accept the truth, can he go along with the plan to escape and, if so, what kind of world will he be escaping into?
The fact that Room is written in Jack’s point of view softens the blow somewhat regarding the horrors of his mother’s abduction and the idea of his parentage. While he is in “Room,” Jack seems incredibly advanced for his age, despite the lies that have gone into making his existence in that tiny prison bearable. But once he is out in the world, we realize all that Jack has missed developmentally. We also see the traumatic affect being held captive for so long and finding freedom has on Jack’s mother as well.
Room is quite a dramatic journey for the reader and so well written, you might find yourself wondering whether it was based on a true story. In fact, the version of Room that I picked up has a question and answer session with the author in which we discover that Room is not based on any specific true story of abduction, despite my feelings that it was very reminiscent of the Jaycee Dugard case. The question/answer session goes into depths regarding character study, points of view and more, so I definitely recommend this particular edition of the book.
I found Room to be a captivating read, one I couldn’t put down – I actually found myself reading it while walking from one room to another one night, loathe to put the book down until I’d finished just a couple more pages. Room is definitely a dramatic page-turner that will activate the thinking process as you question what you would do in Jack’s mother’s place. I definitely recommend this book – I loved it as much as the movie based upon it.