Sunday, November 1, 2015
Room by Emma Donoghue
Published September 2010 by Little, Brown and Company
Source: my audiobook purchased at my local library book sale
Narrators: Michael Friedman, Ellen Archer, Robert Petkoff
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.
I had a print copy of this for years, but, despite all of the hype, I just couldn't make myself pick it up. As has become my habit, when I found an audio copy, I knew that was the way to make myself finally give this one a shot. Which turned out to be fortuitous on more than one count. First, the multiple narrators are all extremely strong, bringing the characters in Room to life and making the audiobook the perfect way to "read" this book. Second, I managed to, completely without planning to, read this book just before the movie adaptation hit theaters. We have yet to get to it but it's getting great reviews and, thanks to Donoghue's screen play, the "voice" of the book seems to have translated to the screen.
Telling a story from a child's point of view is tricky. It's hard for an adult to stay in that mind frame and when you're telling the story from the point of view of a child in very unusual circumstances, it's even harder. Donoghue nails it, perfectly channeling a five-year-old who is both very bright but also very much a child. Jack's is not the only voice that rings true, though. In Room, Ma is a woman who is a young mother who has brilliantly managed to make a life for her son despite the tightrope she must walk with Old Nick and the realities of their lives. Outside of Room, Ma becomes the young woman she still is, a woman who has suffered tremendously, who has had to spend the past five years having to be strong for her son despite battling depression. I was so impressed with the ways Ma found to educate Jack, to make it okay for him that their world was that one room, to make him feel safe.
I wondered, going in, how Donoghue would be able to sustain the story within the confines of a single room. Turns out, that the crux of the story is actually what becomes of Jack and Ma once they leave Room. Is Jack really safer out of Room? How will Jack deal with having to share Ma? How will Ma deal when confronted by the changes outside of Room? Lots of questions, no easy answers.