It didn't take me long to read this book. 24 hours. 1 day. But in that time I felt so utterly consumed by it I could think of nothing else. It made interacting with other people difficult because I couldn't explain how I was feeling, or why. It is haunting.
Jack just turned five years old. His entire world is contained in an eleven by eleven foot Room he lives in with his Ma. He knows nothing else, except for Old Nick who brings the groceries but he isn't allowed to see because Ma makes Jack stay in the wardrobe when Old Nick visits each night. Jack has no idea there is a whole wide world outside the Room.
This book is unputdownable but at the same time it can be hard to read. The subject matter is sensitive but Donoghue handles it with care, showing us how a life of confinement must feel for a child who doesn't know anything else. The world is a big and scary place at the best of times, let alone for a 5-year-old who never knew it existed. There is so much taken for granted everyday that Jack doesn't even understand. He is words- and numbers-smart but everything else he has to learn from scratch and he struggles to comprehend it with what he thinks he already knows. It is incredibly moving and at time's painful to read as he interprets the world around him and doesn't always like what he sees and wishes for the comfort of the Room he knew - something that hurts his Ma, who orchestrated their escape.
I know I shouldn't finish this review without mentioning the strength of Jack's Ma. I can't imagine how hard it would be to have the child of your rapist and I'm not going to pretend to. She did an incredible thing, raised her son to the best of her ability in her circumstances and then did everything she could to make sure he made it to 'the Outside', to give him the best chance she could. It wasn't too surprising that once she got outside she had a breakdown. She had endured for so long, what do you do once you break free of the person who kept you captive for so long? But I admire what she did for her child. I imagine Jack is what kept her going for all those years. All the pain and the suffering can be awful to read, but there is a sliver of hope present in the end, when Jack says his good-byes to his previous life, that makes you think everything will be okay in the end.