Emma Donoghue explores some unquestionably scary territory in her latest novel ROOM. The story’s narrator, Jack is born in captivity in a small shed where his mother has been abducted and forced to live for years. From that description, you might be expecting something gruesome but what Donoghue has produced is touching, smart, sweet, uplifting and funny.
For me, the book brought up the question of what it means to be a good parent. After the story of the Tiger Mom that has been grabbing headlines, I am shocked to report, as you are likely stunned to learn, that there doesn’t seem to be universal consensus about what good parenting is.
However you define good parenting, my guess is that in reading ROOM, you will wonder if you could be the parent Ma was—at every stage of Jack’s life and you may even examine your own definition of good parenting. Do you know a parent who NEVER told their child a lie? When are we shielding our kids and when are we deceiving them? What would you do for your child? What would you have your child do for you?
Jack sees the world as all of us see our worlds—from our own vantage points. And Jack tells his story in the way only an innocent observer could. His world is the confines of the shed he has lived in every day of his life… and for him it is a very good world, with Jack and his loving Ma the main characters.
As the story unfolds, Jack’s world is upended—-is his new world better? Worse? Just different? How does it look to Jack? To Ma? To you?
I found myself rooting for the characters, and as with everyone I love, wondering what fate really would be best for them.
This is a book you’ll want to talk about. It is one of those wonderful books that I wasn’t content just to read… I had to cajole others into reading it, too. I had to talk about it, had to know what others thought… and I bet you will, too.
Ma tells Jack at one point in the story that the two are meant to be like people in a book. I am so glad that Emma Donoghue created this stunning novel, and put these characters in it so we could all share their story.
As you decide what to read next, make sure to make room for ROOM.
— Denise Neary, Regular Contributor