Thursday, September 15, 2011


By Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown and Company, 2010. 321 pgs. Adult fiction

For his entire life, five-year-old Jack has lived in Room with Ma. They don't have much--Bed, Wardrobe, Table, Rug, 5 books, and little else. But for Jack it's enough. The only bad thing is that sometimes Old Nick comes in, punching in his special number in the keypad to unlock the door, and Ma doesn't like him, and doesn't like Jack being anywhere near him. Then Ma starts "unlying"--telling him that the things he sees on TV aren't just pretend and there's a whole world out there and she used to live in it until Old Nick stole her. Now she says they need to get out, and Jack has to help her make that happen.

This book is heartbreaking and disturbing and intensely thought-provoking. AHHHHHHHHHHH! (Trust me, you will need to vent somehow after you read this book; it's not an easy read by any means.) Jack is a precocious and unforgettable narrator, and it's interesting to see first Room and then Outside through his eyes. The book also provides a lot of food for thought about human nature, motherhood, basic needs, and more. Pretty much the only thing that I didn't like about the book were the very frequent references to breastfeeding--Jack has never been weaned and asks for "some" and describes when he has "lots" and how sometimes it's "creamy." Interestingly enough, there's a passage where the mother is doing a TV interview and the TV host says that it might startle viewers to know that she still breastfeeds Jack, to which Ma gives a profound response.
"Ma laughs.
"The woman stares at her.
"'In this whole story, that's the shocking detail?'"
So, feeling slightly chastened, I wondered why it's so disturbing for me, and I think mainly it stems from the fact that Jack's describing it--I don't want to hear about it being creamy or whatever...
So, I think I'm not alone in the descriptions of the breastfeeding being somewhat weird (and I don't totally understand why it continues--why didn't she wean him, especially if she was planning on escaping and knew they'd be back in the world? Granted, maybe the actual plan to escape came suddenly, but it's something she'd always wanted to do, so I'd think she'd be a little more prepared.)
Anyway, breastfeeding tangent aside, this is a gripping story, and I can't really do it justice in describing it, so just do yourself a favor and check it out.

4 stars. Pretty clean.

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