Wednesday, August 17, 2011

ROOM by Emma Donoghue

Don’t read this book if you have a heart condition. No book has pumped this much adrenalin into my system since The Exorcist, and that was more than 30 years ago. It struck me as a fictionalized version of the Jaycee Dugard story, but actually the author was inspired by a different true story. Five-year-old Jack has seen only two people, other than those on TV, in his entire life—his mother and her abductor, Old Nick. Born in captivity, Jack has never been outside (the) Room, a heavily fortified shed in the maniac's backyard. His mother has remarkably managed to make Jack's life seem normal, at least to him, while she becomes increasingly more desperate, especially after Old Nick cuts off their power for a few days. This punishment reinforces for her the tightrope she walks between maintaining her sanity and making sure that Old Nick continues to provide them with the basics. Jack, on the other hand, is quite content with his few toys, including one made from eggshells, and his few books, all of which he can now read and mostly recite from memory. Jack is the reason that his mother perseveres, and one of the things she misses most is dentistry, having let her teeth fall into ruin before Jack was born. The prior neglect of her personal health is a telling indicator of just how vital a lifeline Jack has become for her. This loving, symbiotic relationship is not as stifling as it may sound, and the mother's ingenuity in providing a full life for her son is nothing short of heroic. Then one very harrowing event changes everything, but I won't spoil the suspense for you. I will say that the second half is much less intense, and that was just fine with me. I'd prefer not to stay revved up and sleepless like that for any longer than necessary.

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