Friday, October 14, 2011

Seeking Out Misery: Room

RoomCover.jpgHave you ever felt so happy you could burst?  So filled with joy that your life was actually in danger? Worry no more, because any page of Emma Donoghue's Room is guaranteed to bring enough sorrow and gloom that explosions of happiness are right out.

Maybe I'm particularly vulnerable to her story because I like kids; both mine and all the ones I meet in the halls of their school.  The five year old Jack has spent his entire life inside the tiny room that his mother's captor built to contain his prize.  Although a bright kid, his lack of experience severely skews his expectations and conclusions about the world he finally meets Outside.  His mother has built her entire life around keeping him happy, secure, and away from the evil man who imprisons them.  They are highly magnified versions of every kid and mom -- the child whose mind often surpasses their knowledge, and the parent who bends over backward to make the world a safe and welcoming one for her family.

Donoghue paces the book carefully, showing us Jack's world and his place in it, then placing it in jeopardy both literally and emotionally, and then breaking him out in several stages.  Again these are highly magnified versions of real emotional checkpoints -- five year old Jack has to go out on his own, but instead of heading for kindergarten he has to fake his own death and escape from a sadistic kidnapper.  Although there are a few lapses into melodrama, overall the book kept a firm grasp on Jack and his emotions, a slightly looser hold on his mother, and a constant deep sadness for this reader throughout the entire read.  So a good book, but not for the sad-hearted.

1 comment:

Jenners said...

This is a sad book ... and a difficult one to read. But the mother's love for Jack is so real and palpable that it warmed me ... even while breaking my heart.