I had some reservations about the first book, Room by Emma Donoghue. First, I was reluctant for the same reason I avoid watching Dateline, The First 48, or any of the other real-life CSI shows that I love… because they keep me up a night.
I decided to read Room anyway, and after cracking the cover, I realized the story is told through the eyes of Jack, a young boy held captive in a small room with his mother. I thumbed a few chapters ahead to see if the point of view was alternated by chapter. Surely we were not going to read 300-plus pages through the eyes of a five-year-old.
It wasn’t long before I was engrossed in Jack’s little room, looking up at Skylight, reading on Rocker, falling asleep in Wardrobe but waking with Ma in Bed. Although you wouldn’t think much could happen in one little Room, Donoghue explores the complex relationship between mother and son, complicated even more so by the fact that Jack has never known anyone but Ma. It’s not exactly a “normal” relationship, but then, neither is their situation. It is, however, quite beautiful how a mother’s love transcends the ugly circumstances in which they are bound.
The other readers in our group agreed that Donoghue succeeded in imaginatively depicting what Jack sees and thinks. For an adult woman to convey the mind-set of a young boy is an enormous task. But a young boy who has never felt the wind in his face or grass beneath his feet… it’s hard to conceive.
I have read about two cases in recent years where women have been held prisoner and even raised children in captivity. I wonder how they would respond to this book. Donoghue has said the Fritzl case gave her inspiration for the story, but nothing more. She also researched extensively the subject of feral children.
Donoghue also points out that she never intended Room to be a Thriller. While it’s not a Thriller in the horror sense, it is absolutely a thrilling read. I recall one night, barely skimming the pages and turning them frantically because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.