In a nutshell
Ma was 19 when she was kidnapped, raped and kept in this room. When Jack was 5, she had lived in there for 7 years. And for 7 years, she did what all loving mothers would do – love, nurture and protect her son the best she could, even in that small space with limited resources. And for 7 years, she had to comply with her kidnapper, Old Nick’s whims and fancies, so that he wouldn’t get angry and hurt her and Jack, and continued to supply them with the basic necessities they needed to stay alive.
The story’s told from Jack’s perspective. The first half of the book introduces you to Room, Jack and Ma, and it’s not a pretty picture, I can tell you. Being able to enjoy life’s luxuries, and then being shoved to live in an 11 by 11 foot, sound-proofed space would definitely be the worst nightmare anyone could experience. But Ma made it beautiful for him. She created a world of imagination filled with fairytales, games made out of things in Room, songs and nursery rhymes, and kept his mind away from the outside world. So for Jack, who was brought up in it, Room is the entire world.
The hook for me
Overall Room was a riveting read for me (Except the first half of the book. Jack’s voice got pretty unbearable and I made a lot of effort not to give up on it. I have a soft spot for kids!). What kept me hooked was the second half of the book – the healing, coping and challenges after the escape. What happens to a child, who, throughout all his 5 years, had thought that Room was the world; who thought his Dylan the Digger was the only book in the world; who had been told that the pictures on the television are not real? And throughout those 5 years, he had only spoken with his Ma and no one else. So imagine the difficulties he faced when he had to speak to a stranger, a someone from Outside.
Here, Ma was trying to tell him about the world outside Room, to prepare him for the escape:
“Lots of TV is made-up pictures – like Dora’s, just a drawing – but the people, the ones with faces that look like you and me, they’re real.”
“Actual humans?” She nods.
“And the places are real too, like farms and forests and airplanes and cities…”
“Nah.” Why is she tricking me? “Where would they fit?”
“Out there,” says Ma.
“Outside.” She jerks her head back.
“Outside Bed Wall?” I stare at it.
When they were Outside, not only Jack had to face the challenges, but Ma too. She began reflecting if what she did was right and good for Jack in Room? Will she be strong enough to help Jack survive this new life? Could they deal with this new reality? Was she wrong to ask Jack to escape? Was it safer for Jack to stay in Room?
This story made me realise how easily one can take life and the world for granted when given all the luxuries of life.
Won’t be surprise they make a movie based on this book.
What I didn’t quite like
The beginning. Jack’s voice needed some getting used to for me. But I’m glad I didn’t give up on it.
Room is inspired by Josef Fritzl’s imprisonment of his daughter Elisabeth, and the cases of Natascha Kampusch and Sabine Dardenne. I read about the Fritzl’s case, but I never thought of what his daughter, Elisabeth and her other children have to deal with after being freed, until I read Room. Anyway, I googled and found this latest (2010) news about Elisabeth Fritzl. Sounds like they’re still living in a prison 😦
My verdict? 4/5
Would have been a 4.5 if not for the beginning.