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.