Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

The majority of this book takes place in (surprise, surprise) a single room. When I first learned of the highly restricted setting of Room, I was a little dubious. How would an entire book written about a tiny space keep me occupied and interested for 321 pages?!

Well, I need not have worried. I picked up this book on a Thursday night and finished it by Sunday. Emma Donoghue creates a powerful story with page-turning action so intense that I was forced to ignore my math homework to find how Room ended. The book is told from the point of view of Jack, a young boy of about 5 who has lived his whole life in a 12 x 12 foot room containing only a bed, bathroom, bookshelf, and small kitchen area. The only light Jack has ever seen comes from a small skylight in a corner of the ceiling, and the only other person he has even spoken to is his mother. Jack’s mother remains unnamed throughout the story, referred to simply as Ma.

Besides being adopted, Ma had lived a pretty normal life complete with summer trips to the beach, playing with her older brother, and going to college. This all changed when she was kidnapped at age nineteen as she was walking home from her college library. Her abductor brought Ma to a shed in his backyard and locked her in, coming only in the night to bring food and sexually assault her. Ma endured this silent torture on her own for two years before she became pregnant with Jack. After giving birth to a healthy son, Ma’s life once again had a purpose. She taught Jack how to read and write, played games with him, and tried to provide him with the best childhood possible under the circumstances. Old Nick, Ma’s name for her kidnapper, continued his nightly visits but Ma kept Jack hidden in a wardrobe to protect him.

As Jack grows up, his future with Ma becomes less certain. Old Nick loses his job and his house is in danger of being foreclosed. Ma and Jack need to escape, and quickly. Mother and son hatch a brilliant plan and . . .

Oh come on, I can’t ruin all the fun! You’ll have to read Room for yourself and see if you found it just as thrilling, well thought out, and shocking as I did. The author also wrote the movie version of Room that currently can be found only in a few Boston theaters, giving hope that the film will hold true to the book’s tension, mystery and wonder.

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