Wednesday, August 17, 2011

ROOM by Emma Donoghue

I've heard lots of mixed reviews about this book, but I for one belong to the camp that really enjoyed it. Reading a book narrated by a 5-year-old, not an ordinary one at that, takes some getting used to. However, there really was no other way to tell this story. Part of what makes this book great is the unique perspective Jack has to offer. I think Donogue should be commended on her ability to communicate to her readers the entirety of a situation while still using the plausible perceptions of a 5-year-old. My background is in psychology, mainly social psychology, which is one of the reasons this book was so interesting to me. It is most definitely a tragic premise, one that is very disturbing yet, unfortunately, very possible in our world.

{There are minor spoilers beyond this point, but nothing you wouldn't get from reading the back of the book (which is not something I usually do, hence the warning.)}

What was most interesting to me was Jack's perception of the outside world. You and I, having lived in relative freedom ever since we can remember, would describe Jack's coming out of ROOM as a "rescue" from a "horrible place." But what happens when that is all you've ever know, and it never crossed your mind that it was bad? We are all creatures of habit. What happens when your habits were confined to a small room for the first 5 years of your life and you were suddenly thrust into a world you never knew existed? I think Donoghue did a great job of envisioning the issues that would arise from such a strange situation and how it would affect a child's emotional, cognitive, and physiological development. While my meager 4 years in college hardly makes me an authority on the subject, I found most of Donoghue's speculations to be consistent with what we know about child development.

The book briefly addresses something that had not even occurred to me while reading, but which seemed so obvious once they talked about it. What would your perception of the mother be, and what judgments would you make about her choices? Some of her actions towards the end did not resonate with me, but I thought that she did the best she could with what she had.

I know some people may be hesitant to start a book with such a disturbing and dark concept, but this is ultimately a story of redemption. Delay no further; pick up a copy and report back here, whether you loved it or hated it. If you've already read it, let me know what you though in the comments or post a link to your review.

Love and (a book) light,



  1. Yes! this book is on my TBR shelf and I'm quite excited to get to it. Great review.

  2. I'm glad you liked this one even with the subject matter. I know the subject has definitely affected some folks' enjoyment levels... You are right about Jake's perception of the outside world and how genius it was for the author to consider how it would be for him. I hadn't thought of that either. I enjoyed reading your review!

  3. I adored this too, I think it was brilliant and very true to the psychological processes of small children. Here's my review if you're interested!

  4. Lovely review -- I felt very similarly to you -- I was petrified of this book and was worried it would be too gruesome. I had the good fortune of seeing Ms Donoghue at a reading here in Cambridge and that's what convinced me to give it a try -- and I was blown away.

  5. Audra, I bet it was great to see Donoghue! Luck you. :)

  6. Dorothy, not to brag, but it was amazing. She's so personable and funny and down-to-earth. I look like a grinning fool next to her for good reason!

  7. Haha! That is a great picture. What an honor!

  8. This is such a beautiful book. It made me cry and laugh at how innocent Jack was, it was just too precious. I love how everything is realistic and sweet and it's a must read!
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Your comments always make me smile. <3