Monthly Archives: September 2011

Ninety-Eight Point Six

I don’t remember how I heard about Ninety-Eight Point Six, by Denis Horgan, which I read on my Kindle because it was much cheaper to buy electronically.  I don’t remember buying it, but I must have because there it was. So I opened it one night.

Whoa.  Damned good book.

Ninety-Eight Point Six is a collection of interrelated short stories hung together with the theme of alternate identities.  Each story explores a different case of identity performance.  In one, two men sit waiting to get their drivers’ licenses, except both are using the same identity because one is an undocumented immigrant who has stolen the other man’s digits in order to try to obtain documentation.  In another, a woman constructs an alternate online identity.  The stories question how we consciously and not-so-consciously develop identities, misread other people’s identities, and just in general walk around a few different people.  Or half a person.  Or not a person at all.

I was puzzled by T.I.A., the story of a woman in a mysteriously deserted office.  I reread it, trying to figure out what it all meant, but all I could get was that she was in some sort of top-secret office where she was not in on the secret.

By far, my favorite story was “The English Aisles,” the story of a grocery store manager who torments his customers by moving items all around the store.  I kept trying to read lines aloud to my husband, but I was laughing too hard to do so.  If I were organizing a grocery store, that’s exactly how I’d do it.

If, like me, you only get about ½ hour to read each night, the bonus is that each story takes 20-30 minutes to read.  Just right for after the kids are in bed.  If you get two hours to read each night, still read the book.  Also, come over and put my kids to bed so I get more time to read.

Room

The premise behind Emma Donoghue’s Room is that, seven years ago, a young woman was snatched out of a parking lot and kept prisoner in a shed in some creepy guy’s backyard. Donoghue tells the story from the point of view of Jack, the five-year-old child the female prisoner has borne.

Jack’s whole world has always been Room, where he interacts with such things as Table, Chair, and Snake, the last being built out of old egg shells.  His mother puts him to bed in the cabinet each night in case her tormenter comes to pay a visit.  On weekdays, they play Scream, a game that involves standing on Table to be closer to Skylight.  Jack doesn’t understand the purpose to the game.  He doesn’t even comprehend that he’s a prisoner or that there’s a wide world outside of Room.

The book could easily devolve into some sort of pity-fest, but Dononghue is way above such sloppiness.  Jack is a thoroughly engaging character, and he’s perfectly age-appropriate for a five-year-old who has been kept in a room his whole life.  Not that I know exactly what such a five-year-old would act like, but as the parent of a boy just Jack’s age, I totally bought his voice.  The plot is perfect, which is amazing, given that the entire point of the book is that they are in one room.  I won’t tell you more about the plot because spoilers are for assholes.

I read this book in about three days, which tells you something because the only time I get to read is once the kids are in bed.  In fact, after admonishing my five-year-old to put the books away and go to sleep, I stayed up well past my bedtime reading Room.

If you’re one of those people who hasn’t read it because you’re afraid it’ll give you nightmares, I’ll confirm.  It’ll give you nightmares.

And it’s worth it.