Both haven and prison

Both haven and prison

Marilyn Ramirez

Making its way from corners of the bookstores to a New York Times Book of the Year, Emma Donoghue’s novel, Room, is a captivating story on family and survival. The book, published in 2010, has sold half a million copies, respectively.

Marilyn Ramirez, Copy Editor/Co-Editor-in-Chief

Many books have sprung from the deep corners of the bookstore and into the best-seller section, including Emma Donoghue’s novel, Room. This novel is read with two extreme constraints: the restricted point of view through five-year-old Jack, and the place he calls home: an 11-by-11-foot room he shares with his mother. Readers are soon captivated and disorientated by the lack of information in the beginning of the novel. Jack does not share what city he is in, or why exactly he is there, but instead introduces the “friends” he shares Room with, capitalizing the first letter of inanimate objects such as Bed or Table.

To Jack, Room is his whole universe, and the only evidence of there being anything else are television programs, which Ma proclaims to be unreal. Donoghue animates the limitations through the characters’ daily routine; Gym is a track through the bedroom, Snake is toy made from eggshells and other scraps, and books are treated as treasures. The author’s language creates Jack to be loveable and free-spirited, just as any child, as we go thought-by-thought through a typical day.

However, for Ma, the tiny living space is her prison. It is through snippets of the young protagonist’s eavesdropping we find ourselves discovering how exactly Jack and Ma came to be in Room. Taken hostage as a young woman, she has been forced to sleep night after night with her captor, Old Nick, as Jack declares his name to be. Donoghue’s ability to write in the viewpoint of a young child demonstrates a unique ability that readers are able to feel, as well as read.  There is a constant battle between Jack’s love for the Room and Ma’s hope for escape.

The plot intensifies after the captor’s greatest act of selfishness, forcing Ma into a struggle for survival as she plans a getaway that only Jack can achieve. It is through the tense chapters Donoghue displays the love between mother and child, the sacrifices both make for one another throughout the remainder of the novel. Jack, only a child, must make the decision of leaving his beloved refuge and entering a new world beyond his comprehension.

Despite its undertone of a dark premise, Room is a book packed with moments that are touching and humorous. It invokes questions not only for our imagination, but for our reality, as we find Jack’s revelations and discoveries to be true in our own lives.