Review: Room

Why I picked it: Manic Mommies Book Club Selection.  Thanks to Miriam at Hachette for picking it for us almost a year ago!  I enjoy reading the Booker prize winner (I almost always love the book), congratulations to Emma Donoghue for making the short list.

Have you read Room?  If you have, click here to join the discussion!  We have a few book related questions for you to answer.

Synopsis: To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - This book is getting alot of buzz and it's much deserved.  How the author wrote an entire book from the view of a fie year old still amazes me (and she said it was easy!).  We had a lively discussion of the novel using the reader's guide and gathered some great questions. 

Source: Review Copy

The author wasn't able to join us to discuss Room but she did answer our questions:

I’m curious to find out why the author had a television in the room. Was this an addition during the seven years (maybe a sundaytreat) or was the TV as part of the Room from the beginning? Good question. I agonised over whether they should have a TV or not; I really didn't want them to watch it all day, but I thought that with no TV they might be living a rather 19th-century life, a premodern one rather than the modern-but-sealed-off-from-the-broader-world one I wanted for them. So I decided to make Ma strongminded enough to severely limit their watching, and that way Jack could have visual recognition of many things in Outside without truly understanding them.

This is a common question for writer’s but we are curious… have you thought about Ma and Jack and what their live might be like in ten years time? I've thought a little bit... what I hope for them is that they gradually become more and more like everybody else! They'll always be marked by their experience but they shouldn't have to always feel so strange and special.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process and how you stayed in a five year olds mindset for the entire novel? Was this as challenging as it seemed to us? No, this novel was easy: the story, perspective and tone came to me all in one go, and having a five-year-old son at the time made it pretty effortless to 'channel' Jack. What I struggled with was the balance between grim and upbeat, naive and satirical, slow and fast... lots of tinkering, basically.

Jack seems to have a bond with objects in the room, calling objects Plant, Wardrobe (capitalized). We would love to explore this with you, can you share a little more behind the purpose of this to a five year old? I saw him and Ma as a tribe of two, and I thought their religion would have a large element of animism: seeing a spirit in everything. My kids do that too, they automatically personalise, play and talk to every object they encounter. I figure Jack needs friends and Ma will encourage any way of getting them.

Breast Feeding: One of our readers emailed me to add one more question to the list. She’s wondering if you had gotten a lot of attention or criticism regarding the presence of breastfeeding an older child in this novel. Breastfeeding felt like a logical ‘must’ for Ma.  Yes, lots of rather uneasy attention, almost all of it in the US. To me the breastfeeding made absolute sense on every level, because Jack and Ma are still living very much as mother and baby when the novel starts; they're never more than a few feet apart. She would hold onto any habit that comforts him. But in the US especially, many people are viscerally horrified at the idea of nursing a five-year-old...

Congratulations on being shortlisted for the Booker! As a writer, mother, and partner we are wondering how you do it all. Are you working on your next novel?  I do it all with the aid of my partner (she got six months paid leave when each of the kids was born, which really helped) and then daycare; I manage to do things like email when the kids are in the house, but never actual writing. Yes, I'm working on the next novel now, an unsolved crime from 1870s San Francisco.

I appreciated Ma’s breakdown once the escaped and she knew Jack was safe. This made the story feel like it could have been a real experience for someone (albeit a horrific one).  I'm glad this rang true for you! I (rather coldbloodedly) wanted Jack to be parted from Ma for a while so that he'd start growing up fast, but I also thought it was very plausible that someone would fall apart AFTER their escape; prisoners released from solitary confinement very often only develop psychological problems afterwards...

What is your writing schedule like? It's determined by school and daycare: the minute the kids are out of the house I rush to my computer like a lover!

When you start writing, how much of the story do you have mapped out and how much is organic? I'm entirely inorganic: I plan everything, pretty much. If there's a good strong structure there's room for changes at a later stage, but the structure (and usually the first and last scenes) remain the same.

If you could interview anyone, who would if be and why? What would you like to ask them? Emily Dickinson - but I doubt she'd agree to be interviewed!

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