Saturday, October 29, 2011

The World As He Knows It

When The Typical Book Group picked Room by Emma Donoghue as its book, I was dreading reading it.  I had read the reviews, and really didn't think that there could be anything good about a novel based on a woman who had been abducted, and held in an 11 x 11 square foot room long enough to raise her child there.  But once again I was pleasantly surprised.

The story in Room is told by Jack, a five year old boy who has never known a world outside of his small room.  He sleeps in a wardrobe, and refers to items in the room like "Rug" and "Skylight" with initial caps, as though he is referring to his friends.  He lives with his mom, who is only known in the book as "Ma".  Ma is frequently visited by a man who he refers to as "Old Nick".

Ma is an amazing mother.  She teaches Jack everything that she knows, and plans their days out with a rigorous schedule, so that Jack watches very little television, and has plenty of time to learn.  Ma makes the best of the few things that she has.  For instance, instead of throwing the egg shells away after making breakfast, she blows the eggs out of the shells, and strings them together to make Snake.  She also keeps Jack safe from Old Nick, by never allowing them to see each other, even in the constraints of the very small Room.

Is this a fictional version of the Jaycee Dugard story?  Sort of.  It is more like an author's exploration of how one could make the best of and survive a horrible situation.  Through Ma, Donoghue creates a world for Jack where he doesn't know he is missing anything, and where he feels safe even when he is in more danger than most people will ever face.  Everything that the characters experience seems real, and frighteningly possible.  I am not sure that I would have been able to be as good of a mom in the same situation, yet Ma still has enough faults to be believable.

Next up:  Lisa Robertson's Magenta Soul Whip by Lisa Robertson

Still Listening to:  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

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