Published September 13th, 2010 by Little, Brown and Company
Synopsis and picture from the Goodreads book page
To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.
Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.
Before starting this book, I was not exactly sure what to expect. I had heard so many things about it and all of them seemed to be good, which seemed very unlikely to me that I had heard nothing but praise about this book. When it became a monthly read for an online book group, I knew it was time for me to give it a try. This story was entrancing and yet dark at the same time. This isn’t some fluffy, happy, cutesy story but it is very deep and emotional.
This story is told through the five year old eyes of Jack. I think he was the right narrator for a few different reasons but it also presented a challenge. How do you accurately describe some of the horrific things that happen in this book if your narrator is a mere 5 years old and may not understand it? It’s a dilemma and there were times that I felt the author struggled with her narrator, but it also made the story better. In my opinion, having a child be the narrator for the story made the subject matter easier to get through. As an adult reading his descriptions you knew what was going on, but it was less gritty and thrown in your face and so it made it easier to deal with. A story about a woman who was kidnapped and held captive as a sexual slave for nearly a decade and who gave birth in this room to her kidnapper’s child is really tough and emotional to read about. Having it filtered through the eyes of a child lessens the horror a little bit, which allows you to see the story as a whole.
I had two issues with this book, one of them is small and one is rather big. The small irritation is that sometimes Jack talked like a adult, or made observations that no five year old child would ever really care about. For example, when Jack makes an observation about how people in the world are always busy and never have time for anything and so stressed. A kindergarten age child doesn’t look around and think about other people’s stress. It was moments like that when I felt that the author struggled having a child narrator who couldn’t realistically portray what she wanted to portray in certain instances.
The bigger irritation was how the adults insisted on treating Jack after they were rescued from Room. Even his Ma kept treating him as if he should have been acting and responding differently. When he said he wanted to go back to Room his Ma would get angry with him. I understand that for her it was a prison cell and a torture room, but for Jack it was the ONLY life and existence he ever knew. It was never a negative place, it was home. It’s only natural for him to want to go back. And the other adults did it too. When Jack took something from a store and tried to leave with it, they were angry with him. He’s a child for God’s sake! And a child who has no experience at all in functioning in the outside world! It made me angry and it made me dislike most of the adults in the book.
The ending of this book, however, washed away any irritation I had with the book. They get to put their experience to rest and that part brought me to tears. The moment that Jack stands in the door and says, this isn’t Room anymore, my heart broke and I knew that I loved this book. It’s very rare that a book brings tears to my eyes, but this one did. It wasn’t perfect, I mentioned my problems with the book, but it did touch my heart.