by Emma Donoghue
Published September 13th 2010
“Everybody’s damaged by something.”
Let me be honest, this book was not easy to get into and I put it down so many times before I got through the first part. I initially wanted to read it before the movie came out but I never got around to it. The only reason I picked it up this time is because the book was on sale at the local store but I still found it hard to get hooked until I got to some section of the first part where the story started hooking me.
“It’s called mind over matter. If we don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
The story is dark and told from the POV of a five year old. Jack, the narrator, is a five year old living with his mother in a single room since his birth. His mother makes him believe that the space they live in is all that exists and whatever they see on TV is simply magic. What he doesn’t know is that they are captives. His mother was kidnapped when she was a teenager by ‘Old Nick’ which makes Jack a product of rape but his mother never makes him feel that way. She does everything she can to keep him safe.
“When I was four I thought everything in TV was just TV, then I was five and Ma unlied about lots of it being pictures of real and Outside being totally real. Now I’m in Outside but it turns out lots of it isn’t real at all.”
Seeing everything from the innocent eyes of a five year old has a way of making the situation extremely sad or making it feel less impactful. He is explaining things the way he understands them and sometimes it feels like some situations were glossed over because to a kid they were not a big deal. Because of this fact, I didn’t cry as much as I thought I would. Not saying that I am heartless but there was just something missing and I have to believe it was that. I cried some, just not as much as I should have.
“Want to go to Bed.”
“They’ll find us somewhere to sleep in a little while.”
“You mean in Room?” Ma’s pulled back, she’s staring in my eyes.
“Yeah. I’ve seen the world and I’m tired now.”
Back to the story. Jack’s mother has been a captive for about seven years and during that time she had Jack. She keeps him away from Old Nick because she doesn’t want anything to happen to him. Jack does not even know that’s his father. He only sees him through the closet when he comes over some nights and he hears the bed squeaking. That’s the disconnection I’m talking about. She is being raped but the absurdity of the situation is not really felt because of his innocence. But then again, the mother was trying to make his life seem as normal as she could in that tiny space.
“You know who you belong to, Jack?”
He’s wrong, actually, I belong to Ma.”
He also glosses over the fact that his mother suffers from depression. It’s understandable because he is a kid and has no idea what that is or means but it felt like it was breezed over. It didn’t feel as serious as it should have. Also the way she talks to Old Nick felt disturbing. I guess after years of trying and failing to get away that life became her new normal but still, ODD. She talked as if nothing was wrong, like he was not a demon. Anyway, I liked the fact that he was not a main topic of discussion. He did not have the spotlight and was only mentioned a few times here and there.
“In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time. Even Grandma often says that, but she and Steppa don’t have jobs, so I don’t know how persons with jobs do the jobs and all the living as well. In Room me and Ma had time for everything. I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter over all the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there’s only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit.
Also everywhere I’m looking at kids, adults mostly don’t seem to like them, not even the parents do. They call the kids gorgeous and so cute, they make the kids do the thing all over again so they can take a photo, but they don’t want to actually play with them, they’d rather drink coffee talking to other adults. Sometimes there’s a small kid crying and the Ma of it doesn’t even hear.”
His mother comes up with a plan to try and get them help. The first one does not work but then she does not give up. The opportunity came up when Old Nick decided to punish her and she use that to her advantage. She convinces Jack to pretend to be sick in hopes that Old Nick would take him to hospital but it does not work out. The second plan has Jack really scared but it does work and he gets help and they are both rescued and he is able to discover the outside world that he always thought was not real.
“Outside has everything. Whenever I think of a thing now like skis or fireworks or islands or elevators or yo-yos, I have to remember they’re real, they’re actually happening in Outside all together. It makes my head tired. And people too, firefighters teachers burglars babies saints soccer players and all sorts, they’re all really in Outside. I’m not there, though, me and Ma, we’re the only ones not there. Are we still real?”
I highly recommend this book to patient readers who can look past a child’s narration which can be a bit annoying to read. Also, if you didn’t know, there is a movie adaptation under the same title starring Brie Larson who won an Academy Award for her performance in this. Jacob Tremblay played Jack and he did a great job in my opinion. If you don’t have the patience to read the book, you can watch the movie. But the book has a lot more information that was not included in the movie. They definitely tried to keep it close to the book but that’s mainly because Emma Donoghue wrote the screenplay.