Book Club Review: Room

I feel a little aimless after my half marathon. Yesterday I went to the gym for the first time in what felt like forever and just sort of stood there. I didn’t really want to be there. I wanted to be outside running, but, alas, that was not in the cards. I got injured after my last half marathon for jumping back into things to quickly, so I’m trying to play it smart this time around. I decided to just warm up a bit, work my upper body, and cool down, so I did this:

I was happy with the upper body part (I could barely lift my hairbrush today), but I think I overdid it on the elliptical. My knees were getting sore by the end of the workout, and my quads hurt today. It was not smart. I think for the rest of the week, I’ll probably do no more than 20 minutes total on the elliptical seeing as I already walk a lot throughout the day. Chris and I are planning on doing a shakeout run on Friday, and I’m so excited for that, so I’ll take it easy until then. I guess.

After the gym I made a very springy meal.

That’s garlic butter baked fish and spring pea risotto. Truthfully, I only made half this meal. The fish is Gorton’s frozen filets. They’re great because you can’t just pop them in the oven frozen for 20 minutes, and they’re done! They come marinated and everything. The only sketchiness… no where on the package does it say what kind of fish it isIt’s white fish, and it tasted pretty good. That’s all I know. I’m not thinking too much about it.

I did make that risotto! I love risotto. In a cheese-free house, it’s a delight because it tastes super creamy with no actual dairy at all. People shy away from risotto because it seems like a lot of work, but it’s really not. It’s a lot of time in the kitchen but all you do is stir every few minutes. In the mix there was butter, shallots, white wine, arborio rice, chicken stock and defrosted frozen spring peas. I added some nutritional yeast after the picture (because it makes everything that scary neon yellow), and it was creamy and delicious.

We spent the rest of the night watching ridiculous TV. Has anyone ever seen Extreme Cheapskates on TLC? It was very odd. TLC is the place to go for odd TV for sure.

Anyway, on to more intellectual pursuits.

Don’t let the cover image fool you. This is not a cute kid’s book.

From Amazon:

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.

The story of Room is told by Jack, and Donoghue does a wonderful job of channeling the mind of a 5 year old. Throughout the book, you really feel as though you are seeing the world through Jack’s eyes. It’s delightful at times and very frustrating at others. As you read, understanding what Jack is thinking, it’s frustrating to see him repeatedly misunderstood and unable to get his point across.

The story is definitely chilling, but it’s not as frightening as I thought it would be. While about abduction and captivity, it’s really more about the relationship between Jack and Ma. You learn some details of Ma’s kidnapping, and there are a few graphic scenes describing what life under Old Nick is like, but just as Ma shields Jack from the worst parts of the situation, the reader is not exposed to many gruesome details.

It’s a very quick read, but it’s one of those books that will stick with you for a long time. The story itself is very compelling, but the perspective from which it’s told is what makes it worth the read. That’s my general opinion on the book if you haven’t read it. If you have read Room (or aren’t planning to) here’s some more of my thoughts…

*SPOILER ALERT*

At first, I really liked it. I felt deeply sad for Ma as it was evident that she was trying her absolute hardest to put on a brave face for little Jack while in the midst of a truly horrific experience. She was kidnapped at only 19, raped and held captive by an old creep named Nick. He gets her pregnant once, but she delivers a still born. He gets her pregnant again, and she delivers Jack. This part confused me. They briefly hint at the fact that she’s now on birth control,  but why wasn’t she always? Old Nick has no relationship with Jack, so it doesn’t really seem like he wanted to get her pregnant, so why not give her the birth control right away? I wish they had explained that a bit.

The author mentions that Ma tried to escape once before Jack was born, but she failed and Old Nick retaliated by starving her for a few days. I don’t really understand why she doesn’t try again. She seems to have things like knives at her disposal, so it just seems weird that she didn’t put up more of a fight. It also didn’t make a lot of sense to me that Old Nick, who was crazy and evil enough to kidnap Ma, never even looks at Jack. It just seemed a little unbelievable.

I liked that they had days where Ma was “Gone” as Jack would call her. These were days when she was just totally checked out and couldn’t even get out of bed. It was starting to seem odd that she could manage to pretend like nothing was going on for so long without falling apart, so I was glad the author included these mini breakdowns.

The part of the book where Jack and Ma escape was pretty good, although I had a hard time believing it would work that easily, but overall, I think it was interesting.

I found the parts after the escape to be a more interesting read. I was getting a little bored of Room, but the book did pick up once they got to the outside. I liked the parts that centered around what her family did in the aftermath of Ma’s disappearance, and I wish they had focused a bit more on how they were able to rebuild their bonds once Ma returned, but I understand with the book being from Jack’s perspective, it’s difficult to delve deep into the other characters psyches.

I loved Jack’s commentary on how different his experience growing up in Room was from how it appears kids are raised on the outside- no parental involvement, viewed as more of a party gag or downright annoyance. I wish there had been more of that rather than Jack just describing various kitchen appliances that were new to him.

I didn’t like how the character Ma changed once on the Outside. I thought it was weird that she was able to step up to the plate and be such a strong, loving mom (even though she was young) in captivity, but once they were freed she turned into this selfish, distant person. I could relate to her desire to get her old life back and her frustration at having missed so much, but it seemed like having Jack really changed her life for the better, and I wish the author had made her seem less desperate to brush him off. I definitely did not like the grandma. At first you were supposed to believe she was thrilled about having her daughter back, but the way she treated Jack definitely did not fit that mold. It seemed unbelievable to me that so many people would be allowed unsupervised access to Jack with nothing major going wrong. I don’t think it works like that.

There were too many inconsistencies in Jack’s assimilation into the outside world for me. Like, he’s terrified of rain, but he has no problem in elevators? That just didn’t work for me. I wished they had touched a bit more on the psychological fallout of the experience for Jack as well as Ma.

I didn’t dislike the book,  I guess I just wish there were more, and that the author wasn’t so eager to tie everything up in a neat little bow. Emma Donoghue touched on such an interesting subject, but I feel like she fell short of really exploring it. I guess that’s the downside of telling a really serious story from a toddler’s perspective.  It was a quick read, but I wouldn’t have minding reading for longer in order to get into the real issues here. Ultimately, I think the good outweighed the bad on this one, and I’m glad I read Room.

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7 thoughts on “Book Club Review: Room

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  4. I was glad to have read this one too–it’s such a unique and interesting concept for a novel. I though it being written from a child’s point of view would drive me crazy, but Donoghue handled that well and managed to make a dark book through a light perspective. I agree that some parts/psychologies were stretched, but overall I think the inconsistencies matched up with human inconsistencies in general. Have you read any other Donoghue? I read Slammerkin years ago (a story about a prostitute in the 1700s), and that was actually the reason I picked this one up.

    Reply
    • I think I have heard about this book, but I didn’t know it was written by the same author. I actually found this book through my book club, but I definitely want to check out Slammerkin as well now. Thanks for the rec!

      Reply
  5. Pingback: Book Club Review: Love the One You’re With « I Broke my Umbrella

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