May 17, 2022

‘Room’ by Emma Donohugh

enterRoom_177x284It should be called ‘Floored.’ I am, completely. A 19-year-old girl is kidnapped and held prisoner in a shed for seven years. She has two babies by the gruesome, evil, sick bastard, who took her. One dies. One lives.

We see the story through the second child’s eyes. A boy, Jack, who is five. He and ‘Ma’ live in ‘Room.’ It is not ‘a’ Room. To Jack it, quite literally, is the world. It is ‘Room’. He has never left. He knows nothing but this 11 by 11 foot reinforced, one-skylighted prison. His mother has done the miraculous and created a world for him where he feels loved and is as safe as he can be given the circumstances. They have power, a bathroom, a television, books, and each other. The dreadful man comes in at night while Jack stays in Wardrobe.

The miracle that this world exists at all is such a testament to his Mother’s innate and adapted coping skills that I am ashamed to try to articulate it.

Because it is all they can have, Ma convinces Jack that this world is all they need. She tries not to over explain the horror of their containment. She makes and keeps a schedule. They exercise, eat as well as they can, stay clean and only watch an hour of TV. Jack speaks well. He has imaginary games with his few toys. He learns to read and write. They narrow down the basics of existence and survival to this one room.

However, a double-edged sword of joy arrives when they get out. How is the real world as seen through the eyes of a five-year-old who didn’t know it even existed. What is rain? Why do doors open and other people know his name? How can his young, tortured mother possibly cope with both of their re-entries to a world she’d lost and he’d never won?

The fact that you can read a book about this at all is amazing. The Shack made me sick and I did not enjoy it. You can read exactly why (Jan 16, 2009) Room is strangely rewarding. The level of hope and resiliency in humans is remarkable. This girl lives through this, raises a good son and still maintains empathy for the plight of many many others, who suffer far worse.

Compound all of that with brilliant writing and the world through the quite believable mouth and eyes of a small child and I have to recommend it.

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