Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Book Review: Room

I had heard about Room a little bit sometime last year but didn't seek it out.  When, the week before Christmas, I saw it on the shelf at our local temporary library, I was pleased to find a book that I was interested in reading (as most of the time with the library, I have to have a book in mind that I want to read before ordering it).
Room is amazing.  Sad, shocking, horrifying...but funny, heart-warming, and well, just amazing.  As I started it two days ago (or was it just yesterday), I read a few of the one-liner reviews on the back: "This book will break your heart" and "Affecting and uplifting".  I thought to myself, how can it break your heart and be uplifting - it doesn't seem possible. 
But somehow, it did and was both.  Room is the story of Jack and his Ma.  Jack's five and has only ever known the inside of Room.  There was a moment when I was reading, about 100 pages in, where I went downstairs and told Matt that the book I was reading was very sad.  He asked me why I was reading it.  "Because it's also really good," was my reply, before I headed back up to keep reading.  Jack's narration is so innocently poignant, yet acutely honest.  It pained me to think of the infinite love, patience, imagination, and strength that Jack's Ma had to display, for the most part constantly, apart from the days when she was "Gone".  It pained me because most days I get fed up and I have everything I could ever need.  They had near enough the complete opposite.

One passage in particular made me smile:
In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time.  Even Grandma often says that, but she and Steppa don't have jobs, so I don't know how persons with jobs do all the jobs and all the living as well.  In Room me and Ma had time for everything.  I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter over all the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there's only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit.

Also everywhere I'm looking at kids, adults mostly don't seem to like them, not even the parents do.  They call the kids gorgeous and so cute, they make the kids do the thing all over again so they can take a photo, but they don't actually want to play with them, they'd rather drink coffee talking to other adults.  Sometimes there's a small kid crying and the Ma of it doesn't even hear. 
Although it made me smile the first time I read it, it's made me sad when I've re-typed in all out.  The great paradox of parenting: how can a child be that most gorgeous wonderful creature that you do just need a break from or else you'll go crazy?!

It's been an especially strange to time to read Room, I think, coming just as we went back to work and nursery after the Christmas break.  This morning, I observed within myself that low-level stress that exists in the hours before 8:00 am (really should be 7:55) when I'm trying to get everyone ready and out the door in time to get myself to work.  How I loved the generally no-deadline, no-schedule way of the past week and a half!  Without work, I think, I would have time to play more with the kids, focus on them more, be more there for them.  But then, I know this isn't probably actually true...it's just what I tell myself.   Ma in Room is incredible.  There's a part where someone - her mother, I think - is questioning why she didn't propose that Jack be let out in the real world, to live a better life.  Her reply is that he had everything by being with her.    That part just nearly broke my heart.  And yet, you imagine she wondered all the time whether she did the right thing. 

I loved this article with Room author, Emma Donoghue.  I loved Jack and his voice, his awareness of language and yet innocence about certain aspects of speech (idioms, metaphors, how a sign at a clothing shop that says "Men, Women, Children" doesn't mean that it sells those!).  I loved this book and I think it will stay with me for quite a while.  The heartbreaking and the uplifting parts, all of them.

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