by Vanessa Di Gregorio
“Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra.”
Room is all that 5-year old Jack has ever known. His entire world measures 11×11 feet. But to Jack, that is all he needs.
I can’t stress enough just how much I loved this book. Emma Donoghue has written something that is all at once haunting, dark, beautiful, and hopeful. And long before I turned the last page, I was completely blown away. Told entirely from the P.O.V. of little Jack, this novel has one of the most endearing, lovable narrators ever. I was worried that it might be gimmicky; that a dark story told from the P.O.V. of a child would sound contrived, but Jack’s voice is completely believable – and wonderfully compelling.
Here’s a longer summary about what Room is about:
To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.
Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.
[Description from Goodreads]
Think it sounds dark? It is an incredibly chilling story. And told from the P.O.V. of innocent Jack, it can be at times even creepier – especially when we learn of the dismal and horrifying things from Jack’s innocent perspective. His innocence highlights the ugly, and made me cringe in disgust even more. But somehow this book ends up being one of the most uplifting books – the love between Jack and his Ma is one of the most profound relationships I’ve ever come across. And one of the most genuine.
Inspired by horrifying cases of imprisonment like that of the Josef Fritzl case, the story centers around a very dark theme. And yet somehow this book manages to highlight the wonderful relationship between Jack and his Ma – and their extraordinary love – despite all the disturbing threads underlying the story. Their love is what redeems the story – what keeps it from being melodramatic and miserable.
Emma Donoghue’s characters are wonderfully flawed; even little Jack throws ugly tantrums, and his Ma has a number of dark moments. I don’t want to spoil the story by saying too much, but I guarantee that once you start reading, you won’t be able to put the book down. Though at times I found it to be a bit on the slower side, Jack’s voice kept me turning the pages. All the little details make his narration so utterly irresistible; his unawareness of the outside world, his inability to understand that things like grass and ice cream and other people are real, and his lack of social interaction with anyone else but his mother is what makes the book an absolute wonder to read. And halfway through, you’ll find your heart pounding as the suspense builds. There are also some moments that are incredibly terrifying.
Ultimately, this is a book about recovery – about pulling through the hard times, no matter how terrible they are – and how love and compassion can keep you going. This book isn’t typically about good triumphing over evil and justice prevailing, but about conquering your fears, and moving on, and loving so fiercely that you can overcome unimaginable pain and sorrow.
And now that you’ve read that, I need you to watch this book trailer. It is quite possibly one of the best book trailers I’ve ever seen – as soon as I saw it, I ran out to buy the book. So watch it. And then read it. It is absolutely wonderful.
Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.