I avoided Room by Emma Donoghue for years. I was put off by the disturbing subject matter. A young woman, who was abducted as a college student, struggles to make a life for herself and her young son in their prison, a small sound proof room in a garden shed.
Last weekend, I found Room on the sale table at Munro’s and I decided to give it a try. At $4.99, I’d feel okay about abandoning it if it was too intense.
Although Room was both intense and horrifying, I couldn’t put it down. I haven’t read a novel this compelling for some time and it was wonderful to rediscover the all-consuming joy of being totally caught up in a story.
Room is narrated by Jack, a five year-old whose entire life has been spent in Room with his mother, Ma.
Ma is one of the most devoted parents in literature. Facing impossible challenges, she gives Jack a loving start in life. Their routine includes daily physical activity, toys made of items like egg shells and toilet paper rolls and a regular schedule of normal activities like dusting, laundry and hair washing. Fiercely protective, she puts Jack in the wardrobe whenever their captor, Old Nick makes his frequent visits to drop off groceries and rape her.
Room begins on Jack’s fifth birthday. Old Nick’s behaviour has become increasingly cruel and Ma realizes that life in Room can’t continue much longer. She engineers a daring escape attempt.
I won’t spoil the ending. I’ll just say that in Ma and Jack, Emma Donoghue created two characters about whom I cared deeply. I think you will, too.