Thursday, June 02, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

Inspired by real-life events, Room is the story of a mother and son who are imprisoned in a garden shed by the mother’s rapist. It’s also the story of their rescue and reintegration into society. The narrator is the son Jack, who was born in the shed, and is 5 years old when the story begins.

Sounds disturbing, no? Everyone I know thinks so, and is avoiding this book. I was too. But a friend pushed it on me, and assured me that it was safe to read, and she was right! Don’t be put off by the alarming subject matter and the nontraditional narrator. It’s really really good.

I loved how Donoghue captures mothering at its most elemental level. The relationship between mother and son sustains them both, and the small daily pleasures (bath time, cuddle time, even TV time) are intense and life-affirming. Jack is a delightful child and his mother instinctively responds to him in the best possible way. Jack’s humor, and after their rescue, his wonder at the wider world, are the best parts of the book. The author has said that she thought it would be too disturbing to have the mother narrate the story and I think she is right. By placing Jack (happy, loving, and curious) at the center, she keeps the mother’s terror at arm’s length, letting us view it from a safe distance.

A few people have commented that they were shocked that Jack’s mother still nursed him at age 5. That reaction really disturbed me. This is a book about kidnapping and repeated rape. That’s not shocking, but the breastfeeding is? How very sad. I guess, if you are the kind of person who is scared to read about breastfeeding, maybe this isn’t a book for you.

(Book 15, 2011)

8 comments:

Man of la Book said...

When I traveled in S. America I saw kids nurse at, what we would consider, older age. I never looked funny at people feeding their kids anyway they can.

I also liked Room, even though not as much as others did. Here are my thoughts http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=820

Lisa said...

It really would be a completely different book if told from the pov of the mother. A child really only knows what he/she is told and is immediately visible.

Amused said...

I absolutely loved this book as well, finding it so different than anything else I normally read. I suggested it to my book club thinking it would be really thought provoking and lo and behold they all found it disturbing. Oh well!

Nicola said...

I've seen so many good reviews of this book, I must read it.

longingtobe said...

I thought this book was quite confronting in many ways. While I found the ending disappointing, I am nonetheless, glad that I read it because of the issues that you raise in your review. I cannot begin to imagine how a person who has this type of experience can reintegrate wholly into the world without some sort of scarring. Truly a scarey thought!
http://longingtobe.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/room-a-novel/

Mary said...

I'm so glad you reviewed this book! I read it several months ago and loved it -- I found it to be a testament to the strength of motherhood. It seemed optimistic; even though Jack and his mother go through something truly hellish, they survive and move on with their lives. I would give it an A as well.

{And as for the breastfeeding, it seems like such a small point. However, I always thought that if I were in a situation where the only way I could be absolutely sure of providing nutrition for my child was by breastfeeding them for years, I would totally do it.}

Luxembourg said...
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Facebook Status said...

Such a wonderful treat reading this book was,bcoz it was like NOTHING I'VE EVER READ BEFORE! It takes you out of your comfort zone and plunges you headfirst into the plight of others,the likes of which you had never ever imagined!!

Very beautifully narrated through the eyes of a little child, who is completely unaware of the world that exists outside the small room in which he and his mother are living a poor life as captives.

An AMAZINGLY written book that deals with a very POWERFUL issue, but does so with great sensitivity that is Gauranteed to MOVE YOU!!! The storyline will keep you captivated and make you turn page after page till the very end.

I very highly recommend it what has my new FAVORITE as a MUST READ for avid book lovers!!!!!!!

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