Jack is five. He lives with his Ma. They live in a single, locked room.
They don’t have the key.
Jack and Ma are prisoners.
I casually ordered this book off Amazon without very much thought. Little did I know it’d turn out to be the best book I’ve read in years!
As soon as I started reading Room, I was hooked. The story is narrated by Jack, a five-year-old little boy. Actually, it begins on his fifth birthday. You quickly realise Jack doesn’t have an ordinary life, although Jack himself doesn’t know any different. He’s been brought up in a tiny locked room, with no one visiting them except their captor – a man Jack only knows as Old Nick.
The device of using Jack as the narrator is very clever and doesn’t get irritating as it could had it not been written so well. You get to know Jack’s strange world through his eyes, and he talks about things which the reader understands but the narrator doesn’t. It’s descriptions of Jack watching TV – Dora Explorer is one of his only friends – and being led to believe nothing on TV is real. He thinks only him, Ma, the Room and Old Nick are real. He fills his days with activities his Ma has created to keep him entertained, but which are heartbreakingly mundane to an outsider. I found it really gripping to read about Jack and Ma’s life in room – the characters were incredibly yet effortlessly described and I ended up feeling like a third person in their little Room.
Half way through the book, Jack’s world comes crashing down around his ears. I won’t ruin it for people who are yet to read the book, but needless to say it had my heart thumping and I ended up staying up, reading into the wee small hours to see what happened. This has never happened lately with a book I’ve read.
The second half of the story deals with the fall out of this event and how Jack struggles to make sense of his world. Jack managed to invoke empathy from me that I never thought I had! I just wanted the little guy to be OK and for him to feel safe. Now, having finished the book I am almost mourning the loss of the characters. I wish I could go to visit them.
I definitely would recommend this book to everyone (and have been!) Don’t be put off by the fact it sounds almost like a mismem (misery memoir) – it isn’t at all. It’s a beautiful story, richly told, about the strength of love between mother and son.