I’ve been working my way through two books simultaneously since classes wrapped up on Friday – one fiction and one nonfiction. Both are great reads and I’m enjoying them thoroughly for different reasons (reviews to follow!) but I spotted Room at the bookstore where I work and stopped to read the back and flip through the first couple of pages.
Maybe it’s because I’m still kind of freaked out from reading Jaycee Dugard’s A Stolen Life earlier this year, or maybe it’s because I couldn’t turn away from all the Cleveland kidnapping stories, even though that made me so upset that I actually couldn’t sleep for a few days back in mid-May. But the concept of Room just completely floored me – especially when I noticed it was published in 2011 (that’s post-Elizabeth Smart, Elisabeth Fritzl and Jaycee Dugard, but pre-Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus. Jeez, come to think of it, I read a lot of news about kidnappings. That’s kind of messed up.)
The story is told from the perspective of Jack, a boy who has never known any life other than inside Room, where he lives with Ma, his mother. It is only when Jack turns five and starts inquiring about the other ‘planets’ he sees on TV that the truth comes out – Outside is a very real place and his mother, who has been held captive by a stranger known only as Old Nick in Room for the past 7 years and is now 26, is desperate to escape and return to her old life.
Holy Moses. I started reading this book on my coffee break and got so worked up over whether Jack was going to be OK that I just had to buy it, bring it home and finish it all in one sitting. It was so compelling that I put off doing a couple of hours of freelance work (which means a potentially late night tomorrow, but it was worth it) and just sat in my big dish chair under a blanket and read and read.
It’s similar in some ways to Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend in that the narrator is unconventional and child-like, but the subject matter is even darker. There are elements of the story that are very, very uncomfortable, but the most powerful scenes are hopeful and resilient. Normally, I don’t tend to choose dark books (A Stolen Life was the last really dark thing I read), but this one had me from the first page. What really got me with Room, though, was the creative storytelling. I’ve never read much Emma Donoghue (who lives in London, ON – just like my brother!), but she’s masterfully created a suspenseful, thoughtful, emotional novel that kept me reading all day.
There’s a really cool website for Room, which I recommend you check out (if you click on the TV, you get a sort of video trailer).
On an unrelated note – although I guess it is sort of related, because Room would be a brilliant pick for any book club as there’s so much to talk about – I know my mom passed around a link to this blog at her book club last week. Hello new readers (and a special hi to Rhonda, who I met by chance at the bookstore today)! If you’re interested in subscribing, there’s a little grey plus sign at the bottom right of the main page of the blog – just pop in your email address and you’ll get automatic updates every time there’s a new post.