Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A view of a skylight

Good books tend to last me a week, once I start reading them. Those kind of paperbacks that just pull you right in and make you not get up until you read the very last punctuated sentence on the very last page.

That is how it was for me and Room by Emma Donoghue. Although it took me about six days from start to finish (I had to work, unfortunately), I couldn't put it down.

Quick research, the author stated she did some heavy research of her own - drawing inspiration from national headlines and other stories based on the subject (see here). The premise of the book is a young (26 year old) woman, held captive for seven years in an 11 by 11 square foot room. After two years alone, she bore a son, Jack. Jack is the narrator of the story, and ultimately Ma's hero. Living his whole life in this tiny space, Jack doesn't know any different. He can't go out and play, he doesn't have friends (except those he makes on the TV - Dora and Diego, among others, including real life Ma), he knows little of "Outside" and thinks it's Outer Space. This doesn't mean he's being raised stupid. Ma gets books for him once a week, if she asks right, from the man who captured her, Old Nick. Old Nick is one of those sleezeball tricksters, who was able to kidnap Ma at the right moment in time. When he's not sexually abusing her at night, he is leaving them alone during the day. What he doesn't bring in reading materials, he brings in real basic necessities - food, drink, clothes, hygiene materials (soap, toothpaste, brushes, etc). Unfortunately, Old Nick likes to keep them hidden, so the only way little Jack knows about the world is through a skylight and what he sees via bunny ears on the television. Ma tells him things about how life used to be for her, but she sugar coats it. In the end, the pair survive a harrowing ordeal that puts both of them in danger,but ends up putting Old Nick away. Having enough of Jack and his questions, Old Nick's abuse, Ma sorts out a plan to escape. With Jack being the spry one to pull it off, they get out, and Jack learns about the real world. Story ends on happier terms than it should be, although you do find yourself rooting for the pair the whole time through.

While reading Room, I really could imagine this happening. We're taught from a young age about strangers with vans or walking... offering candy or help finding their lost puppy. Unfortunately, it happens all too often in life, and with Room being fiction, Donoghue really hit the nail on the head in making the characters feel like it's true. Using pop culture references, sure, it can happen in the early 2000s, but how prevalent is it in any generation? I remember growing up in the 1980s, hearing stories, being told "don't talk to strangers", "always find a policeman", etc. I think this novel really deserves the accolades it has gotten, and will get. A must read, for sure, and book to not pass up.


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