Bookish moms here's a story for you. 19-year-old college girl is kidnapped by Demented Pervert, imprisons her in his backyard shed, then uses her as his concubine. She eventually bears a son, and with her child she shares the 11x11 foot dungeon-of-no-escape. And so begins her life as fiercely-loving Ma to wonderful Jack. For years, their only link to the outside world are nightly visits by their captor whom they call Old Nick.
With a plot like that, this book could have just become a cheap, sordid, voyeuristic read inspired by the Josef Fritzl case. Far from it. As someone from The New Yorker puts it, Room is "a horror story redeemed by radiant prose." I see it as the story of how Jack and his Ma save each other. And I'm not just talking about saved from captivity.
Writer Emma Donoghue makes 5-year-old Jack the narrator of her novel and this works out brilliantly. There is nothing like a child explaining Life's Truths so simply, and nothing like a dire situation to highlight Life's Truths. Parenthood truly makes us most vulnerable. At the same time, it is also what gives us strength to forge ahead… imprisonment, emotional torture and nightly-rape-be-damned.
Ma is smart, wise and brave. She's the kind of fighter any good mother should be. Jack is childhood goodness and imagination personified. But they are not airbrush-perfect people. They are also damaged and flawed, at times weak despite their resilience. Their story is painful, but ultimately it is a beautiful mother-child love story. Mothers, you will respond to this! This novel will grip you. It will make you ask yourself profound questions. I just finished reading Room and after being emotionally walloped I am now bursting with Hope.
Viva La Vida, Ma!