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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.

And creepy.

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.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for this Katy but you’ve just confirmed why I absolutely MUST read this book now. It sounds right up my alley. Dark, haunting, and – as you suggest – creepily real. What can I say?

    Delia Lloyd

    January 11, 2011
    • Very cool Delia! Come back and provide the contrarian view. The writing is good. The themes deep. Some people can stomach it.

      January 11, 2011
  2. This sounds beyond hideous and will never grace my nightstand. Thanks for the heads up.

    January 11, 2011
    • Big B, this is a definite no for you 🙂

      January 11, 2011
  3. Great review Katy. I was already steering clear of this one but appreciate the confirmation. onward to (even slightly) lighter fare!

    January 11, 2011
    • Yes, if your gut was already that it isn’t for you–then I think I can confirm it further….

      January 11, 2011
  4. Nancy C #

    Hi. First time reader of your blog and I love your tone…very conversational. I think I may have liked this book more than you did because I had read it while being trapped indoors for 3 days thanks to a big blizzard in NYC. Public transportation was dead.

    Some common ground, I suppose? (in a non-creepy, dangerous, or deprived way.)

    Anyway, I will def. be back! If you want, please check out My friend and I recently started as a collaborative blogging venture for 2011. Would love any helpful comments you might have.

    January 11, 2011
    • Thanks for stopping by and I can read your review as well.There is a lot to like like as you point out. And being trapped in your own Room during the blizzard likely did add to the intrigue.But it’s not for everyone. Good luck with the next set of snow coming in tonight!

      January 11, 2011

    Oh wow, Do you think your age has something to do with such revulsion? I wonder if I would be so horrified. But given my age and experience I might find devastation to someone considerably older so hard to take.

    January 12, 2011
  6. Cathy #

    I enjoyed reading your review of a book I loved — such a different response than I had! While I agree it was chilling and parts were hard to stomach, I fell in love with Ma and Jack and didn’t want to the book to end. I would never want to be in a situation like that (who would?), but the book had me wondering if I had the strength and the disposition to be the good mother that a child like Jack needed. I ended up hoping that I could be that woman if I needed to be. That I would do whatever it took to create a life for my son. Overall I found it to be a book of triumph and I would recommend it to someone who wants something more thoughtful than another paranormal romance novel (like some of my Twilight addicted friends). 🙂

    January 26, 2011
    • I loved reading what you had to say, because it made sense why you liked it. I guess I just knew I couldn’t do what Ma did. Resilience is an understatement.

      February 1, 2011
  7. There is no way I could read this book-creepy sums it up.

    February 1, 2011

    Well, after all the commentary I just had to read it. I read it quickly because I was desperate to know what happened next. What an amazing commentary on human behavior. Mas’ ability to cope and not go mad in those seven years. The acceptance of her mother………I loved Steppa. Her miserable father who obviously ran away from having to cope. Deana and Paul who wanted to help but were afraid of making things worse. The characters were wonderful. Most of all I was enchanted by Jack.

    February 2, 2011
    • Bravo! I am glad you read it. I loved your description just like the previous post.I think there are those who know they can see past the creepy piece to catch the beauty that was there. I could not enjoy it while I read it, but I can appreciate all you saw in it. Glad you enjoyed it.

      February 2, 2011

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