Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Room by Emma Donoghue

Hardly ever do I order a book in hardcover; they weigh too much, I do a lot of reading when flying, I prefer paperbacks so I can pass them on when I am finished (and no, I do not yet have a Kindle, because I like to pass my books along.) I made an exception for Room when I heard a review on National Public Radio. It sounded so different, and I wondered how it could be written without it being so horrible I couldn’t read it.

The story is told from the point of view of a five year old boy who lives in Room, an 11 x 11 foot space. He was born there, he has never been out of there.

As you read, you gain such huge admiration for the human spirit. Jake’s mother was abducted off the streets and kept in this room, which is totally soundproofed, surrounded by a chain metal cage, and can be entered and exited only by a door with a code entry lock. She raises Jake as best she can, keeping him hidden from her abductor. She teaches him reading and math, she tries to raise him eating nutritious foods, they have hygiene rules and daily physical education. Every now and then, she has a day when she is “gone”, when Jake wakes up and his mother won’t ‘switch on’ and just stays in her bed, sleeping all day. On those days, he feeds himself and plays quietly, knowing that his Mom will be back ‘on’ the next day – or so. He doesn’t understand his Mother’s despair, and she shelters him from it as best she can.

And then comes the time when she realizes that life is only going to get more and more difficult as Jake gets older. She makes a plan, a plan that relies on Jake, a desperate plan.

The book is fascinating. I have already passed it along; once I read it, I wanted to share it. In many ways, it is a cross-cultural book, because the culture Jake spends his first five years in is so insular, so enclosed. Emma Donoghue did a great job describing his world from his point of view, and dealing with the aftermath. I can’t tell you much more without spoiling the book for you in a major way. 🙂

There is a Reader’s Guide section at the back, and this book would be an excellent selection for a book club.

January 19, 2011 - Posted by | Books, Crime, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Health Issues, Hygiene, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Women's Issues

8 Comments »

  1. Sounds almost like a Young Adult riff on the Manga/South Korean film Oldboy – which managed to simultaneously fill me with horror, while gripping me to my seat in the cinema.

    Very interesting, I will have to track this one down.

    Comment by Emmet | January 19, 2011 | Reply

  2. I remember you! A-book-a-Day-Till-I-Can-Stay! I’ve often wondered how you can read a book every day. Room you can read in a day, but most of the books I read take a little longer. Or can you review books you read a long time ago?

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 19, 2011 | Reply

  3. No, the rules of the challenge are quite strict. I cannot read a book I have already read. The one exception I made was to re-read The Fellowship of the Ring for my 100th post.

    I mix it up between long books, short books, comics, poetry etc., to keep the interest of blog browsers as much as to maintain my own sanity. As for the reading a book per day, well as I say on the blog, it helps that I legally cannot seek work until my visa is approved. I’ve got plenty of time to kill.

    Room definitely sounds like something I would be interested in. I’ll probably give it a gander.

    Comment by Emmet | January 19, 2011 | Reply

  4. I love the challenge, but I hope you get your residency papers soon, Emmet. The waiting can be a bear. 😦

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 19, 2011 | Reply

  5. Hey there 🙂

    I read that book a couple of months ago, it was excellent. I especially liked – WARNING SPOILER – how he confuses distances and runs into things when he’s in a new environment because he hadn’t had the exposure other children had. It’s something I never imagined would happen. I thought she did a very good job of showing us what was going on through his eyes and how he defines things that he doesn’t quite understand and uses numbers.

    Intlxpatr, you have to buy yourself an iPad and download books on it. It’s so much easier to carry around and it would be like carrying your whole library at once, so if you get bored you just move on to another book you downloaded. Also it’s not just books it’s magazines as well like The New Yorker for example. Someone who reads as often as you do would really make use of this. But knowing how generous you are I know you might dislike the fact that you can’t really share the book you love.

    Anyway, I miss you!

    Comment by 1001Nights | January 20, 2011 | Reply

  6. 1001! I am so glad to see you! Alf Laila! So many people I know have the iPad and love it. First, I am waiting for the new iPhone on Verizon. Maybe later the iPad. I really do have a thing about passing books along, kind of like passing ideas along . . . I don’t think you can export books to another friend with an iPad, can you?

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 20, 2011 | Reply

  7. No I don’t think you can but they have a way you can easily suggest the book to a friend so it sends an email with the book cover on it.

    Comment by 1001Nights | January 21, 2011 | Reply

  8. 1001 . . . . it’s just not the same. Sometimes I want my friend to read a book so much I want to put it in his/her hands. And it may be a family culture thing; I just picked up a couple more books left at my Mom’s by other readers . . . there is something about books and sharing that is just linked in my mind, and until I can overcome it, the iPad doesn’t work for me.

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 21, 2011 | Reply


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