Author: Emma Donoghue
Narrators: Michael Friedman, Ellen Archer, Robert Petkoff, Suzanne Toren
Publication Year: 2010
Pages: 336 (audio length: 10 hours 52 minutes)
Source: Purchased from Audible.com
From the cover:
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 have a confession to make.
When listening to this book, I actually rather messed up. Somehow, I ended up listening to the second part of the book first (over half of it), and then realizing my mistake and starting again from the beginning. So, while my comments are based on what I thought of the book as a whole, I wanted to be honest about something that might have affected my interpretation of it.
I put off reading Room for quite a while because I wasn’t sure how I would like a child narrator, especially that of a five-year-old. Ultimately, though, I rather enjoyed Jack’s point of view – it made for a lot of things that I understood as a reader, but that he didn’t have to actually tell me in order to be understood. Jack-as-narrator therefore got to be more of an objective witness for a lot of the story, and I got to come to my own conclusions.
Having said that, there were times when I thought that Jack’s language really didn’t fit for a five-year-old, even one as supposedly “advanced” in literacy as his character. It was a bit jarring at times, but in general, I didn’t even think about it.
Ma was also a very interesting character, especially since she’s only ever seen from the perspective of her son. There’s a sense, as a reader, of being kept separate and never really being able to get to know her, because we’re always looking at her through a child’s eyes. I think, in a way, that this separation made it easier for me to empathize with the characters – I could remember the feeling of childlike frustration and recognize Jack’s experiences far more easily than I could understand what it was like to be kidnapped as an adult and held captive for seven years in a tiny room.
I was extremely impressed with Room overall. Donoghue does a great job of getting into the psychology of five-year-old Jack, as well as of creating such a rich and detailed story. If you haven’t already, I suggest that you pick up a copy of this book – written or audio – and read it for yourself.