Emma Donoghue is a brave writer to take on such a difficult topic told through the eyes of a 5 year old precocious boy named Jack. "Room" was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and was picked as one of the year's best books by "The New York Times." It won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and I understand it is soon to be made into a movie.
"Room" is the story of a young university woman who was abducted at 19 and kept prisoner for seven years by an obviously demented man whom we only know as Old Nick. She and the young child she bore were kept in an 11 by 11 foot room which became their whole world. This world is everything to Jack the narrator who calls his mother, Ma. The reader soon feels the claustrophobia of being a prisoner and living in fear. Despite this fear, Ma has made an environment for Jack that shields him from the ugly truth of his world. She invents games for him to play and devises exercises for him to keep him healthy. Jack has no playmates other than Ma, and he has invented an imaginative country where objects become friends and all have names. He is secure without knowing his mother is living in horrifying conditions. Both Ma and Jack are dependent on Old Nick who knows Jack is his child, but doesn't want to see him. Jack is sent into the cupboard whenever Old Nick enters the room. As the author is Irish living in Canada, I was deep into the story before I realized it takes place in America where there have been several real life long term abductions which recently have been in the news.
The second half of the book takes place in what Jack calls The Outside. If I go further into the plot it will be a spoiler. But I can tell you that new characters enter the story including Jack's grandmother.
On one level the book is a study of what happens to the psyche of someone kept prisoner for a long period of time, deprived of human interaction,and in the case of Jack someone who has never known another person besides his Ma. On another level it is a testament to the love between a mother and child. And in yet another level it is a story of society's inability to fully understand what being a solitary prisoner can do to a person and the long term stress it produces.
Emma Donoghue has written a terrifying yet absorbing story which is full of hope and the power of love. It is a memorable tale that will stay with the reader long after the final page is read. She is a masterful writer, and I highly recommend this book to all readers. Reading groups will find much to discuss and contemplate.