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Book Review: Room

Andrea Deignan

With a storyline ripped from the headlines, “Room” is a compelling read from start to finish. The novel, by Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue, was released one year ago but is still gaining huge acclaim. Room is the story of five-year-old Jack and his Ma. They live in Room, the only home Jack has ever known. As the novel progresses, the reader learns that Room is, in reality, a prison that confines Jack and Ma in its enclosed space, 24 hours a day.

Donoghue’s character development is what makes this book such an engrossing read. Ma, taken captive and forced to raise the child of her captor, adapts to her life. She spends her days teaching Jack to count, read, exercise, and maintain a healthy diet. Like any other mother, she does not allow Jack to have too many sweets. She makes sure he brushes his teeth, and she limits his TV watching. The way she cares for Jack, you can almost forget that she is being held captive.

Donoghue also creates Jack with such care that it is easy to forget he is a character in a novel and not a real five-year-old. She includes errors in speech that young children often make. She has Jack call the items in Room by their name; he creates friends in Bed, Wardrobe, Table and Rug. She goes so far as to make Jack the narrator of the novel, writing it completely in the language of a five-year-old. While this caused mixed reviews by some critics, it really gives the novel a depth it never would have with an adult narrator.

Room is a novel that is not afraid to push the boundaries. With many controversial topics within it, at heart, the novel is truly about the bond between a mother and a son. It’s a novel you won’t be able to put down once you start and will really leave you thinking. What if your whole world was the size of your bedroom?

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