Room by Emma Donoghue...a review and then some

 Can you imagine having your freedom… your life… taken in an instant simply because someone decided you would be the perfect addition to their life? Emma Donoghue creates a complete life for characters, Jack and his mom, within the boundary of a single room. Room is told from the point of view of five-year old Jack, and therefore, is an extremely easy and quick read. And it is good that it is such a speedy read because this is definitely a book that pushed me along to finish in order to find resolution.

I don’t want to give away the story and so I will just entice by noting a few details that I found to be intriguing. Jack’s perception of his life with his mom is great. He spends every day with his mom and they participate in a variety of activities. He has absolutely no understanding that there is more to life outside the room…and he really has no desire to leave his state of contentment. This innocence was frustrating for my jaded mind at times. Nevertheless, Room is an interesting read. The p.o.v provides an angle of innocence into a situation that is really pretty horrible. I believe this enabled Donoghue to capture the struggles of the mom and her son extremely well. 

Side note: Between reading this book and finishing the fifth season of Dexter, my desire to leave the house has diminished substantially.

In the late 90’s there was a movie, Copycat, where Sigourney Weaver played the role of an agoraphobic. Content to live completely inside her home, Sigourney’s character avoids the outside and most social interaction as a means of self-protection. I don’t remember much more than the basic plot, but her home was pretty secure and yet some crazy still managed to break in. The idea that harm can come even when you are being safe beyond reason absolutely paralyzes me with fear at times.

Okay, so it was just a movie, but I can’t help what others may view as an unnecessary paranoia. The problem is I get this shit, these images, stuck in my head and it is impossible to sleep soundly throughout the night. I have had habitual nightmares for as long as I can remember. Ever since I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street, which in my memory coincided with the purchase of a bed tent, I have been inundated with dreams where someone is standing over my bed with the intention of harm. [A “bed tent” fit like a sheet on the bed and then opened up into a tent, and I had wanted one so bad. They were a big deal for a minute. I’m pretty sure mine stayed on the bed for two days.]

As an adult, I’m still plagued by these dreams and others (mostly involving bugs, currently scorpions are my nemesis). No longer can I go to my parent’s bed and wake them after one of these dreams. Somewhere along the way I learned that turning on the light was enough for me to go back to bed. This is something I still do, most times without any awareness to doing so.

As it were, I have been known to leap across my bed to run into the bathroom, or what I perceive as safety, to turn on the light. I’m usually half asleep, half awake when I do this. Usually, by the time I’m up and standing I realize what is going on, but honestly waking up rarely makes me feel better. The fear that envelops me in my dreams is still very present while I’m awake for some time after. 

Last Spring I went to a conference for work. We were six hours from home and therefore we were put up at a hotel…sharing rooms. The poor woman with whom I shared a room was woken up in the middle of the night by my yells that someone was in the room. Apparently, she turned on the light, probably fearful for her life, only to find that no one was in the room but us. Try explaining over breakfast to a group of co-workers how everything is okay, and that I’m not actually seeing people that aren’t there.

And it doesn’t help that there really are crazies all over, and you never know what someone is capable of. During one of my stints in Okinawa, Japan I had gone to sleep real early because I was sick only to be woken by the sound of my door unlocking and opening. It was just like the start of a horror movie right before something horrible happens. It was abnormally dark in my room because I had pulled the heavy curtains shut completely to block out the early evening light when I’d gone to bed. I called out, “hello?”

A guy’s voice replied, “It’s just me.” I recognized the voice. It was a guy who worked at billeting, or check-in, at our building. I didn’t even know his first name. He was responsible for monitoring who came and went, and he had keys to every single room, as I found out.

It was as if every nightmare I had had was happening in real life. I was terrified. I did not invite this man to my room, nor did I previously give him any indication that his entering my room unannounced would be acceptable. What made it worse for me was that when I asked, “What are you doing here?” His response acknowledged the fear in my voice.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” he said. It was surreal. It was as if he understood that I was scared, but neglected to notice that he was the one causing it. He stood over my bed and asked how I was, as if attempting a normal conversation was normal in this situation. I kind of remember saying I was sick and really tired, and that I just wanted to go back to bed. I said, “You really scared me coming in my room like that.”

He apologized saying he hadn’t meant to scare me. He said he’d go so I could get back to sleep. I actually thanked him. I just wanted him out of my room. He left. Nothing horrible happened. But I immediately burst out crying as soon as the door shut.

I waited a few minutes, but knew there was no way I was getting back to sleep. I wrapped my huge comforter around me, grabbed my pillow, and walked down the long hall to my friend’s room. I’m sure it was obvious I was upset. It was like two in the morning. After explaining, she asked if I wanted her to go talk to him. At first I said no, but when I thought about it, I knew I’d for sure never be able to sleep right in that building if she didn’t. I’m not sure exactly what she said to him. I know she cautioned him against his misuse of the room keys and how much trouble he could get into for entering an occupied room. The thing is, I know this could have been a way worse situation. I know that horrifying things happen to people all the time and I was very lucky. I truly don’t believe he intended any harm, but I also don’t think he grasped what was wrong with his actions. That is what freaks me out the most.

In Room, Old Nick, the character that is the reason why Jack and his mom are living inside a single room says something like, you don’t know how good you have it. It is this kind of sideways thinking, this entitlement to do whatever you want, that is incredibly concerning to me in our world.


  1. Finished this book recently and loved it - in a sad, bittersweet way! I love all your book reviews too! Keep it up!


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