Welcome to my blog. If you're addicted to books, like I am, then you've come to the right place. I mostly write about books and my experiences reading them. These are very personal book reviews. (If you can even call them book reviews...) I’m a true believer that none of us lives in a vacuum. When you read a book, watch a movie, listen to a song, etc., you absorb that art form into your life experience, and it changes you. But you also change it, because no two people see anything the same way. The way I interpret a novel may be totally different from the way you will. It’s still the same novel, but the meaning for each of us is unique. Once you express that meaning, it changes the art. So these posts are about how these books fit into my life. I’d love to hear how they fit into yours. Please make comment and share your experience.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Review of Room by Emma Donoghue

I love finding the familiar in a book.  When an author can recall your own experiences, it is an amazing thing, because you can now view them from a slightly different perspective.  It doesn't always happen, but when it does, I enjoy the process of discovery and reflection.  Room is one of those books.  It is the story of Jack, who is five years old and has lived his entire life with his mother in an 11'x11' room.  His mother has been a prisoner in that room for the last seven years, but since Jack's birth, she has tried to create a life for him in that tiny space with what little resources her captor provides for them.  Fortunately, I have never had such an awful experience as that, but as a parent and as someone who has faced depression, this novel had many moments where I saw myself and my children and my jaw dropped.  Written by Emma Donoghue, Room is one of the most unique novels I've ever read.  Jack tells the entire story and like many child narrators, he often doesn't understand everything that is going on around him. 

Enter ROOM

I didn't want to read this book.  I'd heard of it and thought--Yuck, I don't want to read some horrible depressing story about some poor woman who is kidnapped and raped and held prisoner.  It's just too awful and too real in some ways, knowing that there are actually sickos out there who do such horrible things to people.  But one of my book clubs intervened and forced me out of my comfort zone and as usual, I'm glad.  This book was incredibly surprising.  It was thought provoking and inspiring and touching.

Jack's mother, known only as "Mama" in the story, is a Bad Ass Babe if I've ever encountered one.  She's stuck in this horrible situation and yet she tries to be the best parent she can be in the circumstances. The author truly impressed me with the depth of her ideas, imagining what this situation would be like for both Mama, who remembers a life outside "Room," and Jack, who has no concept of the outside world.  And as a parent of elementary age kids, it is incredibly obvious that Donoghue has lived with a five year old boy before.  I could see my own son and my nephew doing, speaking, thinking just like Jack.   It was incredibly realistic--at times sad, scary, happy, triumphant and hopeful.

Ratings:  For an explanation of my ratings factors, please visit the Rating System Key page.

Crack Factor - 8.5.   I had to skip ahead more than once because parts of the story were so suspenseful, I couldn't go on until I knew how the current crisis would turn out. 

Distraction Factor - 9.5. This book will haunt you for a while.  The disturbing setting is really only a small part of it.  I continually found myself reflecting on the inner workings of Jack's brain--his observations and revelations are refreshing and recognizable to anyone who has spent time with a child that age.  And the little things like his realization that Mama is beautiful...that she's the most beautiful, is so genuine, so typical of a young child whose world revolves around his mother.  Every young child thinks his mother is the most beautiful person in the world.  That's how filial love at that age works.

Mama's struggles with depression will tear at your heart strings.  The reader can imagine Mama's pain, but seen through the eyes of her child, it multiples the worry and the pain because Jack feels it too. 

Story Telling Factor - 9.0.  This is quite an imaginative story, since undoubtedly the author has no personal experience being locked away in a room.  But the way it's told, it all makes sense and comes together well, especially in the second part of the book, once Jack and Mama try to adjust to the outside world. 

People Factor - 9.0.  These characters are people you know, stuck in an unique and horrible situation.

Bad Ass Babe Factor - 9.0.  Jack's Mama continually amazed me with the way she'd raised Jack in such a small space, with so few resources.  She learned how to re-use everything and make what little she had do double-duty: eggshells become snakes, food packaging becomes toys.  At five, Jack could read and write better than most kids twice his age.  Her own struggles with depression only make her more human and believable. I can't imagine anyone could live through what she lived through without a few scars.

Total Rating: 9.0.  This is a quick read, and well worth your time.

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