I’d like to start out with a little back-story with this book up for my review.
I was strolling through my Books-a-Million passing the time waiting for the excruciatingly slow city bus to come. It was extremely masochistic of me, surrounding myself with books; it was nearing the end of the month, so I barely had money left in my budget. Bibliophiles and stretched college funds just don’t mix, people!
My outlook brightened substantially when I remembered I had some money left on a gift card my mother had sent with her last care package. Checking my watch, I saw that I didn’t have much time to find a suitable book at a suitable price before the bus was due at the stop up the street. Off to the clearance aisle I go!
So, my spur of the moment purchase of “Room” by Emma Donoghue (which made me miss my bus by about 45 seconds) was stuck up on the shelf, politely waiting its turn. I was intrigued by the idea behind the book but I wasn’t drawn to it any more than the other books waiting to be read. In fact, it wasn’t until news about the Cleveland abductees being found came out that I decided to crack open the already decently worn library book’s bidding. I apologize for the loosely veiled connection to my theme — even I hate when authors do that.
So, you can read my plot summary on the book here. The password is SPOILERS.
I really wanted to like this book, I really did. The idea was so unique: to tell the story of a mother and son held captive through the voice of a five-year-old. But, finally reading this discount book three months after purchase, I was let down.
Unreliable narrators are the trickiest ones to pull off, in my opinion. So, having Jack’s five-year-old mind process what’s happening around him was frustrating. He almost didn’t seem realistic as a child, having high literacy but horrid understanding of grammar and word usage (i.e., calling a man “a he”). I think the author wants readers to believe his confinement is to blame, which would be reasonable IF his mother didn’t speak correctly or he didn’t watch television. But, aside from her blatant lies or oversimplifications about the outside world, Ma spoke well enough and, I have valid reason to believe, she was at least a smart college student.
This book was even difficult for me to get through. Not because it was emotional or had challenging language, but nothing drove me to want to find out what was going to happen next. I just hit a wall a third of the way through and couldn’t get back into the story until the next day. If you read the plot summary, you’ll see from the short descriptions of the first two sections nothing really happens. Things pick up around half way but then stagger back to a snail’s pace.
My underlying problem with the book is something that just annoys me personally. I generally dislike things that scream, “This is inspiring,” “This will make you cry,” or “This has a deeper meaning.” Movies like “Dolphin Tale” and “Soul Surfer” come to mind — spoon-fed sap. This is a book version of that. Whether it was the author’s intention or not, the messages in the book were put on a silver platter, on a pedestal, with banners and flashing arrows all around. We get it, Emma Donoghue! You have problems with modern society, so you’re making a child who’s lived in seclusion point them out to us. Do you want applause or something?
After all the ranting, you’d think I hated the book. I’m not one to hate books (except “Lord of the Flies,” that one can go die in a hole), so I’m not saying the story isn’t good. I just think it could have been executed better.
Until next time,