Room is a startling novel about a young five-year-old named Jack who lives with his mom in an 11 by 11 room where they are held captive by their kidnapper. Written from the perspective of this young five-year-old, Room can explore themes such as unconditional motherly love, childhood, and fear/bravery without focusing on the criminal activities of the kidnapper.
Jack's mom fiercely protects him from the reality of their situation. For Jack, the room has been his only reality. He has been emotionally protected from the darkness of captivity. Ma's fierce bravery gives Jack a calm perspective on his surroundings: "It's called mind over matter. If we don't mind, it doesn't matter."
Jack begins to awaken to the reality of their room and begins to see the dissonance between the outside world and the room they live in. His increased understanding of the outside world leads to their need to escape: "When I was a little kid I thought like a little kid, but now I'm five I know everything."
Through their turmoil and escape, we see Jack and Ma cope with the changes in their environment and, particularly, their interpersonal relationship. "All I did was I survived, and I did a pretty good job of raising Jack. A good enough job." Ma wrestles with being a mom in a world that is now at her finger tips. Her world before captivity is now crashing with the reality of being Jack's mom.
Emma Donoghue weaves together a story of bravery in the face of fear and the importance of parent and child bonding.
This novel is a fictionalized perspective on a horrific scenario that real children have faced—being held captive by a biological parent. It was inspired, in part, by the story of the five-year-old son of Elisabeth Fritzl, who was born while his mother was being held captive by the man who was both his father and his grandfather.
The novel creates a heart-rending vision of what that type of captivity would be like, with Ma going to extraordinary measures to protect Jack from the full horror of their predicament.
Following their escape from their captor, author Emma Donoghue writes a realistic portrayal of the type of events that would happen in the aftermath of such captivity, from Ma becoming suicidal to Jack's difficulty in interacting with others. The psychological concept of catharsis is brought into the story, with Jack only truly being able to heal once he has been back to the site of his captivity.
It is heartbreaking, realistic, and a haunting read.