Often we come across work that makes us pause and think, sometimes even giving us that desperately needed odd ray of hope, but rarely do we find something that moves us to actual tears. ‘Room’ is one such novel. Narrated by five year old Jack in candid yet poignant detail, Emma Donoghue gives us a story of extraordinary courage and resilience in the face of pure evil. Meet Jack and his Ma, who live in an eleven-by-eleven room with Bed which is where they sleep most nights and Wardrobe which is where he hides when Old Nick comes to visit. There’s also Rug, Lamp, TV, Skylight, Duvet, Toilet (which is just a commode), all of which have real personalities to five year old Jack. He was born and bred in this one tiny room by his Ma who is the only human being he has ever spoken with. The world outside the Skylight is a fairytale to him; exactly like the images of people and places he sees on TV. ‘Room’ is his world. ‘Room’ is all he knows to be true and real. But for Ma, this is a four-walled cell that she has been held captive in for seven years. She lives in a circadian nightmare and Room is her own personal hell because of the monster that it brings forth.
Though the story’s disturbing premises echo the horrific suffering faced by media famous abductees such as Elisabeth Fritzl, Donoghue proves her mettle in understanding a child raised in confinement and thinking like one. She uses tools such as famous cartoon characters to the innocent questions an incarcerated child might possess, and succeeds in effectively using her power of language to describe a child’s viewpoint of a world he hasn’t seen and therefore, cannot believe to be existent.
Unlike most written accounts of victims being held captive, Room also succeeds in showing the reader what has happened/might potentially happen to those after being rescued. It recounts a tender and moving transformation of Ma and Jack when they are saved after a nerve-wracking escape attempt in the middle of the novel. Emma Donoghue’s demonstrates her flair for awe-inspiring suspense as well, leaving the reader firmly rooted in the grip of this powerful novel. Room will make you think twice about your God-given blessings, about freedom which we so oft take for granted and about the importance of perseverance and patience in a malicious and unsafe world such as today.
Overall Rating: 8/10
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