Wow. Room was an amazing read and the author’s style and approach to the story is incredibly interesting and provocative. The novel takes place through the eyes of 5-year old Jack, a boy who’s never known a world outside of Room, a 11′ x 11′ space. When I first started reading, I was a bit thrown off by the style. I wasn’t really sure what was going on. But soon I realized that the book would lose its power if not told through the eyes of a child.
This novel took me through an emotional roller coaster ride. The book begins with Jack happily talking about all the fun stuff he does in Room. Told through the eyes of a child, the 11′ x 11′ room take a life of his own, with meals, physical education, reading, and playing – a pretty normal, happy childhood. Even though it struck me that something was weird, especially since the boy never talked about anything outside the room, it didn’t really click. At one point, I was under the delusion that Jack was actually a robot who was “put to sleep” every night in the wardrobe (I know, I’ve read too many science fiction stories). But as the story continues, details continue to leak out that seem a bit out of place. The strict bedtime, the fact that nothing leaves or enters the room except Old Nick, the fact that Old Nick comes every night around 9 pm and the bed creaks and creaks and creaks. It’s easy to overlook these details though, because when they’re told through the eyes of a young child, it’s all suffused with a sense of innocence. You realize something’s weird, but Jack seems so happy, seems like a normal 5 year old boy with an active imagination, like so many other 5 year old boys.
When the details began to unravel, there is nothing but horror. You realize how much a child who grows up completely cut off from the world doesn’t know – for example, that the TV world isn’t just in the TV – that it’s images of “the outside”. You realize the horrible situation Jack’s mother is in, and how strong she is to keep it together for so many years. Ms. Donoghue does a great job of really helping the reader learn about Jack, building a believable character as he encounters experiences that are everyday to us, but obviously very new to a child who has never seen the outside of a Room.
I highly recommend this book. It will really take you on an emotional journey as only a book written from the point of view of a 5 year old child can. By showing the world through a 5 year old’s eyes, it turns a horrible, emotionally traumatic situation into something that is at least palatable, although still only barely so. And in this way, she really brings to light the trauma that results from an abduction. and the love of a mother, pushed to her limits but keeping it together for the sake of her child.