Emma Donoghue’s novel “Room” is set in an 11’ by 11’ shed where a mother and her five-year-old son Jack are imprisoned. I thought “Yuck. Who wants to read a book like that?” Hearing Jack’s guileless voice tell their story, I want to read a book like that.
The mother, whom Jack calls “Ma,” creates a warm, active world for him. He learns to read, do sums and “phys ed,” and to play games. They also share ideas — “I tell her what I’m thinking and she tells me what she’s thinking, our ideas ... like coloring blue crayon on top of yellow ... makes green.” Ma could be Mother of the Year.
Why are they confined? Ma was a 19-year-old student walking home from class when a man stopped his truck and asked her to help find his lost dog. She jumped in, beginning seven years of captivity in his backyard shed. “Old Nick” rapes her repeatedly and after two years, Jack arrives.
They endure the man’s visits, relying on him for food. When he rapes Ma, Jack hides in a wardrobe, counting bedspring creaks.
Although isolated, he isn’t lonely. Friends populate Room — Plant, Stove, Rug, etc. Through Skylight, Jack sees “Outer Space” and “God’s face” in Sun and Moon. Ma allows him to watch TV, but not too much. It “rots the brain.”
Ma’s Bible reading influences Jack’s language. “When I was a little kid ... I thought as a little kid ...” He exhibits depth and unintended humor: “What started Baby Jesus growing in Mary’s tummy was an angel zoomed down ... a cool one with feathers. Mary said, ‘How can this be? Okay let it be ...’ When Jesus “popped out” Jack says, “He is magic.”
So is Jack’s use of language. He invents words by putting two together (portmanteau words). Ma hatches a successful escape plan calling for Jack to do “the hard part.” She says, “Scared is what you’re feeling, but brave is what you’re doing.” He is “scaredy brave.” Jack replies, “Scave.”
As the two begin a painful adjustment to World, Ma undergoes weeks of hospital treatment while her parents integrate Jack into his teeming environment.
Mother and son finally reunited, Jack laments, “In Room we knowed what everything was called but in World there’s so much, persons don’t even know the names.”
Rating from the club members: Six thumbs up, three thumbs down
October selection: “The Last Child,” by John Hart
For more information about book clubs from the Destin Library, call Tina Kaple, 837-8572.
Marilyn Schroer is a member of the Page Turners at the Destin Library.