To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.
Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.
I can’t decide whether narrating the novel from a child’s point of view enhanced or decreased the brutality of this novel. Jack’s childish narrative was at once powerful and painful as you saw the world, his very limited world, through his eyes. I admire the author’s boldness in creating a story in which we are in the child’s point of view, however, I thought it was an unsuccessful venture.
It’s frustrating of course, because the author is dealing with things out of Jack’s scope of understanding. He’s young, selfish and resistant to change, like most kids are, and while you compassionately understand you also admire his mother’s patience. And while Jack is too young to understand, you as the reader are not.
The first half of the book is very tedious and I felt that the author was probably using this to mirror the predictable mundane routine of their lives and Jack’s mother’s frustration with her captivity. The situation is so intensely disturbing that I was surprised when my empathy was limited to mild concern and brief flares of excitement for their escape or recovery.
The world is a terrifying and exciting new place for Jack, but for his mother it’s the world she was cruelly ripped from. This is very obvious in Jack’s interactions with the outside world. Luckily kids are adaptable, however, Jack initially has a lot of difficulty acclimating to talking and interacting with others apart from his mother. His mother on the other hand is interested in reaching out and exploring the world she missed out on.
Despite this, I was not emotionally moved by the novel. Given the dark emotional nature of the subject matter I should have been at the very least horrified. Instead I remained basically emotionless throughout the entire novel. I was not disappointed by the novel as much as I was surprised by its popularity.