Overall rating: 5/5
Told from the perspective of 5-year-old Jack, Room tells the story of Jack’s life in Room along with his Ma. Slowly, Jack finds out that his Ma was kidnapped 7 years earlier by a man they call Old Nick and that Jack’s Ma would give anything to escape.
In a lot of aspects, Jack is a regular 5-year old. He doesn’t watch as much television as he’d like; he doesn’t watch as much television as he’d like; green beans are his enemy; he’s curious and constantly asks his Ma questions when things confuse him; he gets upset when things don’t go his way; and has a favourite picture book.
But, Jack is different from other 5-year-olds because he’s never left Room. He believes that his Ma and Old Nick are the only people in the world, and Old Nick only exists after 9 pm when he comes into Room. He thinks that the objects in room (Bed, Door, Wardrobe, Bath, etc) are real things, and he plays with them.
Jack’s Ma was kidnapped by Old Nick when she was 19, and he’s kept her locked in his shed with Jack since. Ma and Jack are completely dependent on Old Nick, and he brings them groceries, clothes, a television, among other things. Old Nick is Ma’s torturer, rapist, and kidnapper. She protects Jack from Old Nick as much as she can, hating him for locking her away from a large chunk of her life.
In a desperate means to escape, Jack and Ma trick Old Nick into thinking that Jack passed away. When Old Nick takes Jack to bury him, he escapes and Old Nick flees. Ma and Jack are taken to a facility to help them adjust, and Jack has trouble letting go of Room. Jack his issues grasping the Outside, and the pair struggle to recover with the paparazzi hovering over them.
Jack’s Ma struggles with her demons, as she tries to become the person she was before Old Nick took her. The journeys that Jack and Ma go on are powerful ones, and Ma ultimately realizes that she will never go back to being the girl she once was. She had to change to survive, and recovering from the trauma is just another step toward having a good life with Jack.
I remember seeing this book in high school, and I regret that I didn’t read it until now. Donoghue’s decision to write Room from the perspective of a 5-year-old was a ballsy move, one that really paid off in the end. The subject is a very serious one, and a horrible situation that, unfortunately, does happen. By telling it through the eyes of a innocent child, she managed to educate the reader on recovery from a traumatic event and what it ultimately means to be a fighter.