Room. Wow. Creepy.
I’m all for sordid tales about human behavior. I can handle dysfunction, death and depression. But I couldn’t handle Room, by Emma Donoghue.
Well, that’s not quite right.
I read it, and read it fairly quickly.
Because, sadly, it was captivating.
It was captivating like a car crash we crane our necks to see on the freeway….but then find ourselves disgusted by our own baseness and then shuddering periodically throughout our day recalling the horrible images….so I found Room.
This was one of the New York Times‘ five best books of the year. We aren’t talking pulp fiction here. Serious critics loved this book.
These reviews aptly point out that to write from the voice of the five year old Jack is an incredible talent. Which is true. I can’t deny that Donoghue has created a compelling, poignant and in some ways unprecedented voice of a child. In fact, I can’t recall a child narrator that is much younger than the teen Holden Caulfield. My memory goes blank.
Courageous I grant her.
Because while the 11 foot by 11 foot Room is safe for Jack, it is a prison for his mother. They are held captive by a sexual predator in a locked shed in this lovely man’s back yard. The story translates too easily in a world where Jaycee Lee Duggard can live in Garrido’s backyard for nearly two decades.
I can tell you this if you are inclined to pursue it anyway. The writing is very good and the plot does get more complex and interesting (SPOILER ALERT) after the mother and son re-enter the real world. You understand the judgments made by the outside world about Jack’s long hair and the ongoing breastfeeding, but you find yourself with a fierce loyalty to “Ma”. She is, above all, a survivor. She IS resiliency. She creates a world of normalcy for her son when none should be possible. She contains her own rage and wanting and depression and hope and futility.
Hell, I can sometimes lose my noodle playing three board games in a row on a rainy day. So believe me, Ma gets my vote. Definitely.
While I can appreciate that critics call it a story of the ‘beautiful relationship between a mother and her son’…. well, okay. I guess.
But I say the real world is creepy enough. I don’t need it in my fiction, people. I can just pick up that SF Chronicle and read all about the bizarre, unfortunate and insane–and spare myself the 200+ pages.
So if you find that the subject matter is making you a bit squirrely, I wanted to let you know that BookSnob read this one so you don’t have to.
Forge on to some other literary crisis that’s easier to stomach.