I can’t sufficiently express the delight I took in reading Emma Donoghue’s darkly moving novel, “Room,” whose narrator—and hero—is an adorable little boy named Jack.
He emerges into the world at the age of five, from a dank, windowless, soundproof room, where he and his mother, unbeknownst to him, had been held captive for seven years by their kidnapper.
He grew up in an eleven by eleven cell, ignorant of the existence of a vast world outside of the “Room.” He’d spoken with no one, but his “Ma.”
Donoghue has told a phenomenal story, so incredulously well that it’s easy to forget that the storyteller isn’t a thoughtful kid.
The recounting of incidents by Jack affirms one theme, over and over again: a solid bond between a mother and a child that far surpasses industrial glue in strength.
After their escape, to grapple with loneliness, from not having his “Ma” beside him, he carries with him, at all times, her broken tooth. To him, it’s a surrogate for the emotional safety and comfort that she provides. He writes poignantly, “I put Tooth back in my mouth for a suck. He doesn’t taste like Ma.”
Slipping and sliding, he takes a day at a time, making new discoveries about objects and phenomena that we take for granted—from rain to people to metallic cutlery to shopping malls.
And while he’s at it, he’s filled with awe, brimming with equal parts marvel, unease, fear, and thrill. His take on the world is uncommonly imaginative and infinitely cute. He describes a globe he sees at his grandma’s place as a “stature of the world”; dew “as a kind of sweat that happens at night.”
Like Pinocchio, were Jack to leap out of the pages, and become a flesh-and-blood boy, he would’ve the goodness of nature to melt the heart of an ogre.
In a sequel, one can imagine him growing up to be a fabulously well-read, perspicacious, sentimental, and a responsible young man. Perhaps, gay, too.