Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Review: Room by Emma Donaghue

Hey Blogfam, 2013 is flying!! Happy June days to y'all!!

I  started reading the book “Room” by Emma Donaghue iin December but put it aside when my Ereader started misbehaving.

Following recent news about the discovery of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight who were incarcerated for 10yrs by their abductors in Cleveland, US, I quickly restored my faulty Ereader to working order to resume reading. I imagined there might be parallels in their experience to that of the occupants of Room.
It didn’t seem far-fetched anymore.

Room was written through the eyes, vocabulary and thinking of a 5yr old boy called Jack. Don’t knock it yet. It’s not about ‘Fireman Sam”. It was a more than average 5 year old, raised in unusual circumstances.
The book engaged me from the beginning. I am always fascinated about cognition in children - how do kids make sense of the world around them.

For Jack, room was the only home/haven he knew and it was adequate. There was Ma, Bed, Rug, Wall, Wardrobe, Snake -  all treated as equal animate playmates. 
His mother had tried her best to create a lively and happy regimen which included rhymes, TV, exercise, singing, reading. The concept of ‘bored’ was alien to him.
But as we go along we realize that despite Jack’s happy patter, the circumstances were not normal. 
Room had no exit for its occupants.
                
I won’t give away the plot, as much as I want to, cause it was simple really - Life in room, Life outside room. Yet it was more than that. It was a plot rich in psychological, sociological and political undertones.

The lives of Jack and Ma outside room was interestingly as terrifying as the one indoors. You would think freedom automatically makes everything okay....no it didn’t.
They had to deal with questions which judged the mother's choices (Why didn’t you give your child up for adoption rather than let him suffer in abduction with you? Why do you still breastfeed your 5 year old son?)
Physiologically, they had to deal with skin that burns in the sun because they had not been out in the Sun for years, with Vit d deficiencies, with under-developed immune systems.
They had to deal with spatial cognition – as simple as being unable to automatically judge/measure distance as you move around – which didn’t come automatically to a child who was born/bred in an 11ft by 11ft room.
They had to deal with a child who had serious social adjustments to make having known only 2 people. One good. The other bad.

Much of the grim impact on the mother – the adult - was only implied. The routine rape, depression, raising a child as normally as you can under difficult circumstances, keeping your hope alive and alert for escape opportunities. It was up to you the reader to read between the lines and marvel at human resourcefulness, resilience and maternal love.

I have since found that the author drew inspiration partly from her 5 year old son and the infamous Josef Fritzl case.   
Monsters walk among us.

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