Emma Donoghue’s seventh addition to her literary career comes in the form of Room, a very disconcerting story that, roughly half-way through, finds its teeth and truly digs into the emotional well each of us is rumored to have. The story revolves around a young boy named Jack, his mother, and the “room” they are forced to share. Told through the eyes of five-year-old Jack, Room is a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of a young, highly intelligent mind whose life knows only the confines of the eleven-by-eleven space he was born in. And, as the story progresses, it becomes infinitely more interesting as he experiences for the first time many of the things we often take for granted.
The story unfortunately kicks off with a slow start. Because the narrator’s voice is that of a five-year-old, there is plenty of repetition – sometimes to an excess. And after reading roughly three chapters of his often pointless musings, I grew bored and put the book down for a few days. Donoghue’s dedication to realism in terms of speech patterns and children’s observations is commendable, but at times, as I read, I felt as though I were a parent trying to tune out the voice of a ceaseless child. And as paragraphs floated by and my mind began to wander past the page, I realized that I was tuning him out as I read. This changes, luckily, around the middle of the novel when explosive events occur that catapult Jack into a brave new world he thought was a fairy-tale, effectively throwing the routine that he bludgeons readers with out the window. And it is at this point that the book becomes increasingly difficult to put down as Jack comes face to face with the mundane, yet experiences it as a frightening new reality, far from anything he’s ever known. This glimpse into what could be considered a “damaged psyche” is where Donoghue shines, throwing into the spotlight the intensity of fear and of relationships forged in pain and forgiveness. And as the story sweeps us along with Jack from situation to situation, we are given a beautiful opportunity to re-experience many of the things we don’t actively consider as we wander about from day to day. This opportunity for an innocent glimpse at our world makes the book worth reading.
In essence, despite a slow and monotonous meandering in its beginning, Room definitely grows on you once the “world” is introduced to the ever inquiring Jack. And as Jack works toward an understanding of his new reality, so too are readers given the opportunity to be re-introduced to the world in which they know so well, making Room a fascinating read for anyone with an inquisitive nature.