My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I admit that when I was first given this book, I didn’t think I had the mental or emotional energy to dive into this story. The publisher’s synopsis sounds intriguing, of course, but given the subject nature you expect there to be some heavy material. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to enjoy “Room” much more than I thought I would (it’s even made it onto my “books that give you the ‘oh wow’ factor” shelf!).
The thing about this story that really hooked me was/is its narrative style. Right from the beginning, the reader’s eyes are opened to the world of “Room” and each of its individual, defining aspects–Table, underneath which is Spider, Wardrobe (safe place), Rug, etc. Seeing things first-hand from Jack’s perspective, the reader gains an idea of what it would be like to grow up within this confined space and daily routine without knowing anything more. What I found especially haunting is the way in which the reader gleans details about the world outside of Jack’s understanding through secondary characters and things said or not said. For instance, the “Screaming” game to Jack is just one of several routine activities that he and his Ma do to pass time, whereas we the readers realize its true significance.
I think that the way in which the author focuses the story on Jack and Ma’s relationship both in Room and outside of it, rather than on Room’s origins or the horrors of Ma’s past, is what makes this book credible and unique. As a reader, I found it more appealing to read about how someone would survive in this situation and what it would be like for them afterwards, interacting with the world. The author handles the details of this subject matter with a subtlety that allows story to build on characters rather than on pure shock value.
The one thing about this story with which I have trouble believing is the maturity of Jack’s narration. I found that he sometimes said things or (claimed to) understand things that seemed too mature, too complex, for a 5-year-old. I found myself wondering, “Would a 5-year-old really say/think that?” I’m not sure if some of these instances are meant to move the story along (i.e. suspension of disbelief) or whether I just don’t know 5-year-olds very well. The latter could be the case. 🙂
At any rate, I’d recommend this book for a longer-term read.