I’ve been putting off reading this book for the longest time because I was sure I’ll bawl like a baby and need a ton of ice cream to recover. Needless to say, this stunning book did not disappoint when it came to emotionally traumatizing me.
If you haven’t read this book, I’d suggest you skip over the synopsis, grab a copy ASAP and brace yourself for an emotional roller-coaster.
The book begins with Jack telling us that it’s his fifth birthday. Jack lives with his mother Ma, in a place called Room. Room is actually where Jack was born, and he’s never been outside it. Ma and Jack spend all day playing fun games and doing chores in Room. A usual game is Scream where they yell as loudly as they can. Jack loves his Ma and Room, but he’s terrified of Old Nick who comes at nights and gets into Bed with Ma, while Jack hides in Wardrobe. Jack can hear the number of times the bed creaks and counts them on his fingers.
Within no time we find out that when she was 19, Ma was kidnapped (by Old Nick) and has been kept in a shed in his backyard ever since. Room is actually a 11 x 11 cage (of sorts) with padded, thick, impenetrable walls and with a steel door that opens with a security code. It’s been 7 years in Room.
This is a story of a child and his mother and their life trapped inside a small room. It isn’t really a spoiler to reveal that they manage to escape Room, because their captivity was only the tip of the iceberg. This is a story about how Jack adjusts out in the real world, which is as important and compelling as his life before his dramatic escape.
Room is one of those books you flip frantically through to find out what on earth is going to happen to these people! The premise for this book reminds me of something Stephen King would write, and it’s certainly has the vibe of a horror story as Jack’s innocent words about Room reveal that Ma is the victim of a horrible crime that she’s trying to shield her son from.
The narrative is heart-breaking, as the entire story is told from Jack’s perspective. The author successfully weaves you tightly into the lives of Ma and Jack, two people forced to endure the horrible situation they’ve been put in. After a few dozen pages, you’re going to start feeling caged and desolate because of all the emotional manipulation of the book itself. Capturing the situation in the words of a five-year-old child created the perfect opportunity to stir the right kind of emotions in readers.
It’s overwhelming to read about a child born in captivity, with complete isolation and no knowledge of the real world. A child who is blissfully happy to live with his mother and sleeping in the closet when Old Nick comes visiting at night. When Ma tries to explain to Jack about the outside world he can’t even believe that the things he’s seen on the fuzzy TV are real. It shakes up his belief system, his concept of what’s real. How can there be anything else except him and Ma?
This book beautifully showcases the love and devotion of a mother for a child that was fathered in a violent abduction and rape. A woman who was forced to lie with her captor and then give birth on her own. A woman who has to shield her son from the truth and keep him happy, and then convince him to help her escape into a world he doesn’t even know existed.
What’s chilling is the amount of stories you read about where things like these happen. That’s what makes this story so compelling. When I hear of such incidents it breaks my heart to think about the people involved and what they must have endured. This book gives you an insight into that from a child’s perspective. The book highlights the psychological and physical results of being raised in captivity and the long-term effects in sensitive detail. Cruel? Maybe. Brilliant? Definitely.
There’s also a movie coming out, and I’m praying frantically that they don’t mess it up. Here’s hoping that the film does justice to this brilliant book!
The book has gotten mixed reviews. Many people find the narrative irritating since it is from a 5 year-old’s perspective. But if you can overlook that and appreciate the massive effort that went behind creating a book out of a child’s vocabulary you’ll love it. The writing is exceptional and the book is sweet, tragic, uplifting and creepy. A messed up book that will take you onto an emotional journey which will definitely make you think and most probably weep.