Book Review: 2010 Short Listed: Emma Donoghue’s Room

Rating: 4.5
Room
A Novel by Emma Donoghue
2010 / 352 Pages

Room is one of the only books to which I have had a physical reaction – it made me sweaty and nervous and my heart raced through parts of it. Emma Donoghue’s newest book tells the story of 5 year-old Jack and his mother, who have been living in captivity in a single square room for Jack’s entire life. One day, Ma tells Jack that she was kidnapped in college several years ago by the man who is keeping them imprisoned (and is also jack’s father).

Ma and Jack have no contact with the outside world except for the few things that their captor brings them once a week. They also have a television and a few books. Despite their isolation, Jack is amazingly intelligent, as Ma has been able to give his education her complete attention throughout the 5 years of his life.

Their situation is terrifying enough, but things start to get really scary when Ma tells Jack that they must find a way to escape Room. Jack is reluctant and does not understand why Ma feels the need to leave, as he is happy and comfortable in the tiny space he shares with his mother. After all, he has never known anything different.

Room offers unique insight to the things we take for granted in this world as participants, where life in isolation on the periphery is difficult to imagine. Well, Emma Donoghue has imagined it for us and it’s pretty much the scariest thing ever. Although sometimes Jack seems unbelievably mature and perceptive for his age, the author has created one of the most unique characters in contemporary literature through Jack.

Room is a work of fiction, but the possibility of this scenario as a reality is what makes this story so psychologically unsettling. By now, most people have probably heard a thing or two about this book, and it was just released in paperback a few weeks ago, so if you haven’t read it yet, I really hope you do.

This review originally appeared on Hooked Bookworm on May 31, 2011

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