I first came across Room by Emma Donoghue a few years ago when it was in hardcover. Finishing my thesis I didn’t have time to read it, but a copy came my way and I held onto it for a few years until reading it just recently and I am glad I held onto it. Room is a beautifully written novel about a horrifying situation.
Five-year-old Jack was born and raised in “room,” a 11′ x 11′ woodshed where his mom is being held captive by Uncle Nic. The morning of his fifth birthday, Jack starts to ask questions that his mother can’t answer and this leads her to realize that Room will not be able to contain them much longer.
Ma hatches a plan to break them free, and following the successful escape we see them try to reenter the world. I really enjoyed Jack’s perspective. I admit, I found it hard to read at first but I quickly got into his voice and loved seeing the world through his eyes.
I did question at certain scenes. Ma makes it a point to talk about how Jack is smart for his age, but whether he grasps the gravity of what happens around him is another question entirely. He narrates about conversations with lawyers and seeing himself on television with such clarity that is hard to remember that he is a five-year-old boy.
I want to talk a little bit about Ma. I liked Ma in the book because she wasn’t what you might call a “perfect victim.” Her story was sad–she was at school and she got abducted by a guy that pretended to have a sick dog in his truck–but when Ma breaks free she is defensive of the life she made for Jack. She says it was the only option and it was the truth, even though she’s met with some resistance. Ma created a nurturing environment within room that let Jack feel secure for the first five years of his life.
When I saw the movie trailer I was a little nervous that Ma was going to be changed into a likable character that would appear on a show like Dr. Phil or Oprah. I admired Ma’s spunk, especially when she blatantly says to her lawyer during a television interview:
Is she allowed to ask me these ridiculous questions?
So imagine my surprise when I found out the Emma Donoghue wrote the screenplay herself and when I saw the movie and found that all of my fears regarding Ma’s character were unfounded.
The film is amazing as well, with an Oscar-winning performance from Brie Larsen and a standout performance from Jacob Tremblay, who plays Jack. These two have a genuine connection on screen and that brings this mother and son relationship to life.
In the end, I think it is really hard to tell if the book was better than the movie. I think that the movie loses many of the book’s rich details that couldn’t be portrayed on the screen.
Have you read Room? What did you think of the book? Let me know what you think in the comments below.