Room – Emma Donoghue

Posted on March 6, 2013


Room - Emma Donoghue

Room – Emma Donoghue

It’s hard to not feel bad for someone, maybe to actually feel apathetic for someone, who’s been kidnapped and imprisoned for 7 years; Emma Donoghue (wiki, personal site) may have accomplished this feat by penning Room (Amazon Link).  It might be best to stop quickly here and say that I would recommend Room to many people, it just did not do the trick for me.  The concept is fascinating, but really beyond that, I thought this booked lacked the development of its soul and so many elements which really make a story truly captivating.

So much felt contrived.  Jack’s, the 5-year-old narrator of the entire book, speech often waffled amongst varying levels of comprehension, degrees of grammatical correctness, and depth of vocabulary; Dr. Clay’s unnecessary poetic references straining for credibility; Ma throwing in a line, immediately after escaping from her imprisonment, about how there are so many other prisoners in the world today; the list goes on.

The most forced aspect of the book comes as Ma and Jack entered into the real world after their truly brave escape from Room.  Ma in particular takes the re-acclimation to everyday life on a particularly tortured path.  She has to ‘endure’ common sense questions from doctors, nurses, the media, and even her family.  Readers are shown, through Jack’s eyes, how Ma must grit her teeth, painfully fight off every live wire of ferocious angst against this world who just can’t seem to ‘get’ her as she’s returned, carry the weight of her torment, the unimaginable stress of 7 years held captive as a sex slave.  However, in the course of coming back to the real world, we are not shown any human emotion in Ma, which might be reasonable if we are to put ourselves literally in her shoes, but yet, we’re also not shown a woman whose humanity has been ground down into some feral state or presenting Stockholm Syndrome.  It’s as if we’re supposed to believe that Ma has lived her life in confinement, just as any other mother, and has escaped, emerging just like every other woman.  Never shedding a tear, never breaking down and collapsing from overwhelming emotion, the most we get is a woman overdosing on some nondescript medication.  The same reaction we see in actual reality from depressed or partying women from teens up to adulthood.  The entire act does disgrace to the legitimate tragic victims of the unthinkable realities Ma’s character suffered through and panders grossly to the hugely booming cult of mommy-economics.

The voice of Jack does little to bolster this story with eloquence and insight.  For a taste of the palatable grimaces that await you in Room, here is a very concise and accurate pantomime of the 5-year-old child’s voice  and speech used by the author to tell the story as written by “A real pageturner” from Amazon’s web site (whole review here) in which “A real pageturner” critiques the book:

Why nobody warned me about the awful of reading a story telled by a 5-year-old child? If I’d knowed, I would have putted Book back on Shelf and runned away, hippity-hop like the Runaway Bunny. Silly Me, I readed all of Book because lots of people telled me about the good of it, so I thinked it would get better in a little bit. No way Jose, Book just goed on and on like this for 321 excruciating pages. I know what excruciating means because that’s what Ma says it feels like when Tooth hurts really bad, and after reading this book I knowed what she meaned. Why Emma Donoghue made this choice? I’ve readed lots of books else by her, but Room is my worst favorite of all the books she writed.

Now some will find this book inspiring, uplifting and courageous, and they do have that right.  But great literature should shed light on humanity and be a prism through which we are voyeurs on a fragment of humanity indiscernible to the naked eye.  With the lofty premise Donoghue attempts to employ, I feel she falls short of greatness, but in the end, develops a coherent-enough piece that many could enjoy.  If nothing else, Room, has a very cool web site.

Thanks for reading!  And please let me know what you think.


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