Monday, February 21, 2011


Emma Donoghue
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 13, 2010)
5/5 Stars

Room is told in the first person point of view by Jack, who just turned five years old on the day the book opened.
Today I'm five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I'm changed to five, abracadabra.
Jack lives alone with his mother, and as he is her only companion and source of conversation, he has an advanced vocabulary and conversation skills which are obvious from his narration. Also because his mother ("Ma") is his only source of information about the world, except for minimal television, his is unusually naive and at times backward for his age. Donoghue does an excellent job giving Jack a voice that is at once believable and emotionally stirring.

Through Jack's eyes we view his world: one room and Ma. He narrates an average day (though a bit different as it's his birthday) for the reader, not realizing that there is anything unusual about the way his days play out. The reader however, sees what Jack doesn't: that Ma is making enormous sacrifices to keep Jack's world as "normal" as possible.

I don't want to spoil it by telling much of the plot, beyond what might be read on the blurb, but I will say that reading this I am reminded of Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful, in that a parent is making enormous sacrifices that the child never sees, and is able to live somewhat normally and happily as a result.

Room is five chapters, but essentially three parts. First, Jack gives a picture of daily life. Heartbreaking for the reader, matter of fact for him, as he tells about the things he and Ma do during an average day. Without realizing it, he shows Ma as a woman struggling with mental illness, doing the best she can to hold it together for her son, while he is an exuberant, generally happy, nearly typical five year old, doing five year old things.

The second part of the book is when Jack and Ma leave Room for Outside. This is very traumatic for them both, in differing ways. Jack has never been Outside or seen other people and the sensory overload is well told in his voice, as is Ma's attempts to stay mentally strong while suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome--though through his eyes the experience looks quite different.

The last part of the book is the triumphant finale. It is again beautifully told through Jack's voice as he and Ma succeed in being "scrave" (brave even though scared) and life begins fresh for them.

I have seen many negative comments, written about such trifling things, that I was shocked. Room is the most fantastic book I have read in some time; definitely the best I've read in 2011, but possibly the best I've read in 2010 as well. It is heartbreaking at times, yes, but it is also such a hopeful book, a book of triumph and love. I highly recommend this stirring and powerful novel.

~~Read for the Take a Chance Challenge.~~


  1. How could I resist a book with a review like that?! Thank you for your review.

  2. sounds too wonderful

    DOnt know if I will be able to read it though
    Little 5 year old boys and moms who love them may be too moving to read

  3. I love this book unreservedly and wholeheartedly agree with your review. It was the most riveting, can't-take-it-but-can't-stop books I've read in a long time. I'm gushing and I know it. We're reading it for book club in March and although I'm normally pretty cool with people not liking books I recommend, I'm not so sure on this one. Hopefully they'll all like it.

  4. Kathmeista, I'm glad others have loved it like I did! I hope your book club feels the same way!

    K, it may be a bit too much for a mom of a preternaturally sweet 6 year old to read, but then again, that might make it even more special. Or, it might make it very hard. I just don't know!

    Deb, if you try it I do hope you like it!