This book opens up in such a strange way and the descriptive terminology is so unusual that you are simply captivated immediately in the desire to make heads or tails of it. It is one of the most imaginative novels I have read. The conversation between the mother and child is phantasmagoric. The imagery is unexpected. Ideas conjured up seem out of the realm of the real world.
How can two people live in a space no larger than about eleven feet by eleven feet and possibly six and a half to seven feet high. There are no windows that open, only a skylight above. They are totally trapped yet the mother carves out a life for her son and herself, making him believe there is no other world other than that in which they live. As ill equipped as she is and with the little means available to her, she educates her child. Until the moment she realizes that her captivity may not be the worst problem, that their very lives may be at stake, she is able to exist day after day.
The man who keeps them prisoner provides them with what is barely essential for their survival. They have toilet facilities, a TV, AC, clothing, heat, food and water.
For the five year old child, born in this room, the outside world does not really exist. There is no outside world, only this inside world. Often he sleeps in the wardrobe to give his mother privacy when their captor enters the room, otherwise he sleeps with her. The only people in the world he knows that are real, are his mother and her captor.
She has created a fantasy world within and without the walls of the room. It is hard to find words to describe that which they experience. The child does not fully understand his deprivation, except through the television, as he learns suddenly that there is a world outside the Room, beyond the pictures in the box called a TV.
You ask yourself, often, how can she bear the emptiness, the loneliness, the long hours of nothingness, the constant rapes and perhaps even beatings, since there is an implication that she is sometimes bruised? How can she bear the pain she must endure, as she has with the childbirth and now her rotting teeth which constantly ache. How can she bear the claustrophobia. Neither of them are provided with even even basic medical care. The child still nurses. It is a strange world, this world of the Room.
It is hard to breathe while reading the book; the tension is so great. What makes it worse is the fact that I seem to remember that there was a story like this in the news, in the recent past, that something like this might really happened, that human beings were held captive in a world which consisted only of the Room and there were children who never knew any other world, like Jack. The horror of it is beyond belief. I found myself shaking as I read it, wanting it to be over, wanting them to be safe but not comprehending for one moment how these prisoners could ever be whole again.
To give you more information about the book would be counterproductive. Suffice it to say that it is one of the most creative and disturbing but well written books, I have ever read. The world through the eyes of a child that has never known the world is fraught with danger and new experiences which are hard to grasp. The descriptions are so touchingly simple as with Jack describing the dog walking in the street while attached to a human with a rope or when he touches the buzzing bee that is all stripy with gold and black, unaware that it stings, only amazed that it is real and not in a picture book, or when he relates to the spider or the falling leaves and sun. His pitiful plight is illuminated by such images. I recommend Room, highly, with the caveat that it will be a difficult read.
You won’t be able to put it down.