Layer by layer, in single sentences interspersed throughout the brilliant novel, "Room" author Emma Donoghue tells you the story of 5-year-old Jack, whose only world is a roughly 100-square-foot, sealed and locked room where he lives with his mother, Ma.
Abducted when she was 19 and held hostage by Old Nick, Ma raises Jack as best she can under circumstances that are horrific to the outside world. But Jack knows no difference.
His world is this one, safe room.
The cartoon "Dora the Explorer" on television is a real person to him, but Ma doesn't allow him to watch too much television for fear his brain will turn to mush.
Jack has never been outside this room. His mother's love is real and embracing and he does not feel the fear that she does each time Old Nick comes to visit in the nighttime and Jack has to hide in the wardrobe: "I always have to count till he makes that gaspy sound and stops."
Donoghue's writing is precise and exquisite. She captures the voice of Jack with perfection from the very first paragraph and continues flawlessly throughout the entire book, even when there are alternating voices toward the end.
With this powerful voice, Donoghue places the reader in the private world of Ma and Jack, where the horror of their existence is ameliorated by Ma's love and protection. As Nicola Barr writes in The Observer in London: "In the hands of this audacious novelist, Jack's tale is more than a victim-and-survivor story: it works as a study of child development, shows the power of language and storytelling, and is a kind of sustained poem in praise of motherhood and parental love."
I loved this book. It is powerful and emotional with its ordinary story that is actually a mother's worst nightmare. This is a story you won't be able to put down and one that will stay with you for a long time.
Annie Philbrick is co-owner of Bank Square Books,
53 West Main St., Mystic.