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Book Review: Room

Author: Emma Donoghue
Published: 2011
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Number of Pages: 352
My Rating: 5

Summary from Goodreads:
     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.

I remember seeing this book on the shelves multiple years ago and picking it up to see what it was about. After realizing the main character and narrator was a five-year-old boy, I put the book back down and dismissed it, assuming the voice would be childish and annoying. Oh boy, was I wrong.

Room by Emma Donoghue is the story of Jack and his mother, simply titled Ma, who are being held captive in a small shed, which Jack calls Room. Jack was born in this cork-lined, skylight-lit space and it and the objects it contains are the only life he's ever known. His mother does an amazing job keeping a daily routine and providing the physical, intellectual, and emotional nutrition he needs in order to be a functioning and caring child. But what she can't provide, however, is the knowledge that there is an outside world of that they can't belong.

Ma is a wonderful character that really epitomizes the idea of mother-love and how strong the bond between a mother and her child can be. She has imagination and creativity despite the situation they are in and does everything she can to provide a happy childhood for Jack. Her protective instincts for her son are entirely evident when she has him hide in the wardrobe every night so their captor, Old Nick, won't be able to see him or hurt him when he comes for his “nightly visits”. Ma is an unimaginably strong woman who always puts Jack’s needs before her own and will go to extreme measures to protect him.

Now back to my original apprehension about this book, because I'm sure you feel the same, the fact that the narrator is a little boy. This in no way makes the story childish or immature; in fact, Jack is a child who is wise beyond his years and sees things with total detail. His innocence of their complex situation makes it that much more captivating and heartbreaking and will have you flipping the pages to find out what will happen to them. His love for the objects in Room that have become like his friends is so pure and his trust in his mother and their world is so childlike, you will quickly fall in love with this character.

Overall, this was an incredible read that completely surprised me. I honestly picked up the book because the movie was getting so much buzz and I wanted to check out the novel before the big-screen version. You should, too. I promise you will not be disappointed. I truly fell in love with Jack and his mother, and I'm so happy they could climb out of the pages and get out of that Room.

-Busy Brunette


  1. Good to hear you enjoyed it!
    I've read it too and like it, but I can tell you that I found movie to be so much better.
    When reading (I read it in Croatian, so maybe that's the reason), I sometimes found Jack to be annoying, but in the movie that wasn't the case. The movie is so emotional, I cried few times even though I am not a big cryer.


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