Sunday, May 1, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

Jack turns five today. And in the first five years of his life, Room and everything in it are all Jack has ever known to be true. Everything else outside the room (Outside) is not real. The things on TV are things from other planets, which aren't real. The cartoons come from the cartoon planet. Trees seen in the TV are not real, but Plant is real, because Plant is the only potted plant that exists in Room and therefore, the only plant to exist in reality. For Jack, that one room measuring 11 feet by 11 feet, the Room he shares with his Ma, is his life, reality and the world.

Room by Emma Donoghue is another book I recently finished reading. It is about a boy who lives a life trapped with his mother in a little room. Only thing is, Jack doesn't know he is trapped because he has been born in there and has never left it. There is no reason for Jack to believe that there's a much bigger world beyond the door of Room. Growing up, Room is where he sleeps, Room is his playground, Room is the place where he discovers new things, Room is where he asks his Ma questions. Old Nick, a man who comes into the room every day or few, whom Ma seems to despise and Jack never allowed to see, is their sole provider.

It is only after Jack's fifth birthday that his Ma begins to drop facts and questions that suggest there really is a world in the Outside after all. Within few days of Jack having to accept the disturbing truth, Ma also reveals that she wants to escape Room. But Jack finds it hard to believe that Outside is real, and even harder to understand why they have to leave Room. Still, his Ma plans an escape, which is eventually a success, and the rest of the story focuses on the mother and son's difficult transition to the world outside Jack's world. For Jack, it is like being an alien landing on a different planet altogether.

Reading Room is of a really atypical experience from other novels because I've never given much serious thought on how the world would appear to a five-year-old boy who might have as well just popped out from his mother's womb and is experiencing world for the first time. But unlike an infant, Jack is already capable of speech, reasoning and memory. If seen from his perspectives, it's really not too hard to imagine the world as a terrifying place for Jack. Imagine, for the first five years of your life, you know every corner, every scratch and every inch of surface of your world, then suddenly, you are in the Outside--a place you didn't even know is real until just a few days ago--and a burst of elements is working your senses to overdrive. Suddenly, the world for Jack is no longer just him and Ma. They have to share it with other people too. The sunlight is too intense for his skin. There are too many different sounds happening at the same time. And he discovers, the world runs on repetition. Plant is no longer the only plant in the world. The Dylan the Digger book Jack sees in a mall turns out to be a same but different one from the one he owns back in Room. Then there seems to be a million social rules to learn in this complicated world.

The really memorable thing about Room is that, the whole story is told in the first-person point of view of Jack. Reading the novel is like putting myself in the brain and thought processes of a little child, along with his childish sentence structure and grammar, funny punctuations and weird choices of words to describe things, which totally makes sense because Jack is only five. 'Switching off' means sleeping. Things 'hided away.' Jack narrates in half sentences a lot which are catchy and funny to read. Where there should be a period, there's a comma. Where a sentence should go on, it is suddenly paused by a comma.

The amount of thoughts and details Donoghue put into every word of Jack's narration is amazing. So many times, it wouldn't have occurred to me that a child would think in such a way, until Donoghue strikes a chord in my inner child and imagination, and reminds me that fifteen years ago, I used to think or may have thought like that too. Bringing myself into the shoe of a five-year-old, it is like reliving toddler-hood in some ways yet the experience is so different because Jack's life is so. It is really quaint, fascinating and quite painful to see the world through the eye of Jack. He may be a fictitious character, but Donoghue made Jack's feelings and perspectives so believable that I get caught up with his emotions so naturally.

Psychology is so fascinating. Throughout this novel, the distortion of reality and fantasy in the mind of a boy is very haunting. I really like this book. I think you should give it a try too.

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