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Room (Donoghue) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Here come the debating points that are embedded in Ms. Donoghue's story. Was the world inside Room somehow safer than the world outside? Will it be damaging for Jack to have to share his mother with new people in her life—or with the people she left behind? Will Ma still be content to do nothing but interact with her frisky son? Is it harder to choose freely from a whole bowl of lollipops than to have no choice at all? Room is sophisticated in outlook and execution, but it's not too complicated to use actual lollipops to frame that theoretical question. Fortunately Ms. Donoghue makes both Ma and Jack too unpredictable for any of those answers to be easy.
Janet Maslin - New York Times


Jack's voice is one of the pure triumphs of the novel: in him, [Donoghue] has invented a child narrator who is one of the most engaging in years—his voice so pervasive I could hear him chatting away during the day when I wasn't reading the book. Donoghue rearranges language to evoke the sweetness of a child's learning without making him coy or overly darling… Through dialogue and smartly crafted hints of eavesdropping, Donoghue fills us in a on Jack's world without heavy hands or clunky exposition…a truly memorable novel…It presents an utterly unique way to talk about love, all the while giving us a fresh, expansive eye on the world in which we live.
Aimee Bender - New York Times Book Review


[O]ne of the most affecting and subtly profound novels of the year.... Not too cute, not too weirdly precocious, not a fey mouthpiece for the author's profundities, Jack expresses a poignant mixture of wisdom, love and naivete that will make you ache to save him—whatever that would mean: Delivering him to the outside world? Keeping him preserved here forever?…until you finish it, beware talking about Room with anyone who might clumsily strip away the suspense that's woven through its raw wonder. You need to enter this small, harrowing place prepared only to have your own world expanded.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


[A] riveting, powerful novel.... Donoghue's inventive storytelling is flawless and absorbing. She has a fantastic ability to build tension in scenes where most of the action takes place in the 12-by-12 room where her central characters reside. Her writing has pulse-pounding sequences that cause the reader's eyes to race over the pages to find out what happens next.... Room is likely to haunt readers for days, if not longer. It is, hands down, one of the best books of the year.
Liz Raftery - Boston Globe


Only a handful of authors have ever known how to get inside the mind of a child and then get what they know on paper. Henry James, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and, more recently, Jean Stafford and Eric Kraft come to mind, and after that one gropes for names. But now they have company. Emma Donoghue's latest novel, Room, is narrated by a 5-year-old boy so real you could swear he was sitting right beside you.... Room is so beautifully contrived that it never once seems contrived. But be warned: once you enter, you'll be Donoghue's willing prisoner right down to the last page.
Malcolm Jones - Newsweek


At the start of Donoghue's powerful new novel, narrator Jack and his mother, who was kidnapped seven years earlier when she was a 19-year-old college student, celebrate his fifth birthday. They live in a tiny, 11-foot-square soundproofed cell in a converted shed in the kidnapper's yard. The sociopath, whom Jack has dubbed Old Nick, visits at night, grudgingly doling out food and supplies. Seen entirely through Jack's eyes and childlike perceptions, the developments in this novel—there are enough plot twists to provide a dramatic arc of breathtaking suspense—are astonishing. Ma, as Jack calls her, proves to be resilient and resourceful, creating exercise games, makeshift toys, and reading and math lessons to fill their days. And while Donoghue (Slammerkin) brilliantly portrays the psyche of a child raised in captivity, the story's intensity cranks up dramatically when, halfway through the novel and after a nail-biting escape attempt, Jack is introduced to the outside world. While there have been several true-life stories of women and children held captive, little has been written about the pain of re-entry, and Donoghue's bravado in investigating that potentially terrifying transformation grants the novel a frightening resonance that will keep readers rapt.
Publishers Weekly


Five-year-old Jack and his Ma enjoy their long days together, playing games, watching TV, and reading favorite stories. Through Jack's narration, it slowly becomes apparent that their pleasant days are shrouded by a horrifying secret. Seven years ago, his 19-year-old Ma was abducted and has since been held captive—in one small room. To her abductor she is nothing more than a sex slave, with Jack as a result, yet she finds the courage to raise her child with constant love under these most abhorrent circumstances. He is a bright child—bright enough, in fact, to help his mother successfully carry out a plan of escape. Once they get to the outside world, the sense of relief is short lived, as Jack is suddenly faced with an entirely new worldview (with things he never imagined, like other people, buildings, and even family) while his mother attempts to deal with her own psychological trauma. Verdict: Gripping, riveting, and close to the bone, this story grabs you and doesn't let go. Donoghue (The Sealed Letter) skillfully builds a suspenseful narrative evoking fear and hate and hope—but most of all, the triumph of a mother's ferocious love. Highly recommended for readers of popular fiction. —Susanne Wells, P.L. of Cincinnati & Hamilton Cty.
Library Journal


Room is beautifully written as a first-person narrative from Jack’s perspective, and within it, Donoghue has constructed a quiet, private, and menacing world that slowly unbends with a mother and son’s love and determination. —Vanessa Bush
Booklist


Talented, versatile Donoghue relates a searing tale of survival and recovery, in the voice of a five-year-old boy.... Donoghue brilliantly shows mother and son grappling with very different issues as they adjust to freedom.... In the story's most heartbreaking moments, it seems that Ma may be unable to live with the choices she made to protect Jack. But his narration reveals that she's nurtured a smart, perceptive and willful boy—odd, for sure, but resilient, and surely Ma can find that resilience in herself.... Wrenching, as befits the grim subject matter, but also tender, touching and at times unexpectedly funny.
Kirkus Reviews




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