Wednesday, September 28, 2011
"Room" - Emma Donoghue
Jack is 5 years old. (An incredibly intelligent, verbose 5 years old one second, an alien babbler the next.) He's lived in "Room" all his life- a prison he assumes is the entirety of Planet Earth. He shares Room with his mother, who has been there even longer than he has: for seven years she has been kept trapped, and repeatedly raped by a sadist she calls Old Nick.
It's an incredibly disturbing premise, a horror story really, but at some point Emma Donoghue decided she wasn't as interested as being in your nightmares as she was interested in being in your book club, so this is a story full of "love" and "hope" and "survival." A novel that could have been terrifying opts instead to be "inspiring." I realize this is a + for today's squeamish reader, but my interest all but died at the halfway point, when the horrifying situation is resolved and we're left to see how Jack copes with a BIG OLD WORLD. Once the Room opens, the Suspense runs right out through it. There's a reason why scary movies end when the bad guy gets killed. Who cares if Jack thinks the world is wacky? Well, social workers might, but I didn't. 5 year old kids cope really well anyway, and they spend lots of time trapped in their rooms: it's not like they need freedom to vacation through Europe. If we had seen more of his MOM'S side of the story, that I would have cared about, but her plight only comes to us through Jack's cutesy "I-dun-understan'-adults" voice. Most people will love "Room"; I thought it chickened out of even darker possibilities.