Writers : Emma Donoghue
My Rating: 3.5 on 5
I usually do not decide whether to read a book by its cover. Room was an exception. There is something spooky and disturbing about the book cover which made me pick it up and read it. The lone house without a door in the middle of nothing, the uneven words of the title which appear to be floating in the air give the book cover a supernatural touch, even though this book is not about anything supernatural.
Room is written from the perspective of a five year old boy Jack who has been living in a 11×11 feet room all his life with his mother, Ma. For Jack, Room is the universe since he has never been outside and doesn’t know there is a world outside. Old Nick, which is what Jack calls his father, has locked up Jack and his Ma in this sound proof room and uses Ma for his sexual pleasures. This setup has worked out for 6-7 years but Ma decides to escape when she finds out Old Nick has been laid off and fears the situation might turn worse.
Ma comes up with a plan and Jack follows it and they both find themselves finally free. Jack has a bigger battle to fight. He is in a world which he was not aware of and the world expects him to behave like a ‘normal’ five-year old.
Donoghue does a brilliant job of constructing this imaginary room. She takes care of tiny details like Skylight with sound proof glasses, electronic lock for the door, electric heater instead of gas and so on. I love how Donoghue decribes the mother-son relationship. The care Ma takes to ensure Jack is physically and mentally developed is heart warming. The little games she comes up with, the schedule she draws up that includes physical activity, cleaning, reading, watching TV, playing word games: just amazing.
I feel the author should have handled the coping-with-the-world part better. This part of the novel looks unplanned and haphazard. There are points well made, but I feel the author could have drawn this part further to make a better impact. The ending was a bit too mushy for me, but I guess this book couldn’t have had a better ending.
This book was a good read and made a lot of impact on me. But, in the end, I am left wondering why Old Nick abducted a girl to keep her captive. What was his motive, was he a sadist, a psycho? Building a sound-proof room which is like a microcosm takes time, effort and planning. Did he plan this out before he abducted the girl? And why this girl? I guess when you look at the big picture of violence, abduction, child abuse, these questions lose their importance. I can see that, but I still find myself asking these.