Saturday, January 22, 2011

Emma Donoghue's Room - No View

Whew! I finally finished listening to Emma Donoghue's remarkable novel Room without having anything else go wrong. Donoghue had me worried. I often think that I should transfer to a library farther from home just so that I can have more time in my car to listen to some of these outstanding books. This is definitely one where the hype was not hyperbole. I surmise that one really MUST listen to this book to get the full impact of the narrator's voice. Five year old Jack is one of my favorite characters in literature now.

This book has been getting a lot of good press and has been a finalist for several awards. The problem with writing about it is that one can't say too much without being a spoiler. Are you familiar with the metaphor of Plato's cave? If so, you will get the gist of this story of a young woman, kidnapped by a monster of a man, and held in a hidden, windowless room for years, to be used as a sexual slave. Raped repeatedly, the young woman gives birth twice, once to a still-born daughter and then to Jack who literally and metaphorically saves her life.

At the mercy of this monster, the young woman has to use every ounce of wit, skill, and courage that she possesses to appease the monster often enough to keep a minimal amount of food coming in, electricity for heat and air, and the very basics needed to raise her son. At the same time, she must make life in this single room seem "normal" to the growing boy, teaching him about a world he may never see, doling out information about "the outside" in bits and pieces as Jack seems able to absorb it. After all, in Plato's cave one's perception of the world is only what one knows for sure is true.

This is a deeply disturbing novel, not least of all because a similar scenario played out in San Diego a few years ago and was all over the news for weeks. I don't think that the horror of such captivity can be fully realized in fiction or in reality but Donoghue does an amazing job of illuminating the small wonders that Ma, our young captive, uses to give herself and Jack a reason to wake up every morning. The strength of the loving bond between a mother and child has never been more fully realized.

Enough said. Read this book!

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