SPOILERS APPEAR BELOW, some major, some minor. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
I’ve wanted to read Emma Donoghue’s Room for a while. I thought the concept — a child born to a woman who has been kidnapped, the story told through the child’s perspective — was a really cool idea. I mean, in the wake of Elizabeth Smart, and especially Jaycee Dugard, I thought this novel had the potential to be a really compelling read. At the end of the day, though, I was really disappointed by the book. Before I start “popular,” best-selling novels, I usually take a quick glance at the reviews on either BN.com, Amazon, or GoodReads. I try not to pay too much attention to people’s comments, because I don’t always end up agreeing with them, but in this case I think what bothered others is what bothered me, too.
But first, before I hit every branch on the sucky tree, I’ll do what we did in my creative writing classes and write what I thought was good (followed by the bad/needs improvement). All of these I’m going to do in bullet points because it’s the weekend and I feel lazy.
- The concept of the novel — mom stuck in room, kid born in captivity, adjustment to the outside world, told through kid’s perspective. Top-notch in my book.
- Jack’s difficulty in transitioning to the outside world. At first, I was like, “Why the hell does he want to go back?” But then I realized: he has never known anything different, and he has never experienced really suffering, thanks to his mom. Why should he want to leave?
- Grandma and Steppa. I thought this was a nice balance of characters to take care of Jack after the mom loses it.
- Jack’s speech. Other reviews called it gimmicky, and I have to agree. Honestly, for a kid that was supposedly so well-taught by his mom, with such a good vocabulary, I thought his speech was way too weird. It’s not like his mom had weird speech patterns. Based on how his mom was characterized, I find it unbelievable that Jack, or any healthy five-year-old, would talk that way. (And truthfully, it made it really hard to read in places.)
- There were some things that were just truly not needed in the story, like when the mom mentions to the press (of all people!) that she had an abortion when she was 18. First of all, I question the timing of it, and it just wasn’t important to the story to begin with anyhow.
- Modern cultural references. It drives me crazy when books talk about things that are modern and current and known to this current audience of readers. In high school, it drove me crazy when I read older books and they talked about money, but in general terms like “When I saw the price, my eyes bulged.” As annoying as it was, I could imagine how expensive it was then, and I can still imagine it now, even though the price back then would have been cheap compared to now. Anyhow, the reference to books like Twilight and The Da Vinci Code and Dora and Backayardigans and iPods just irked me. In ten or 20 years, those things will be old history.
- The mom’s suicide attempt is poorly planned and developed. Okay, I guess “planned” isn’t a good word choice but it just seems like Donoghue didn’t really develop it in a way that was truly significant and meaningful to the story and character who made the attempt.
- The development/introduction or some of the characters at the end was seriously lacking — like with the mom’s father. He appears, he’s apprehensive, and then he just — poof! — disappears. Okay…
If was a quick read. If you’re looking for something fast to fill up time, this is a good one to pick up (but either borrow it from me, or get it from your local library!).