Thursday, March 10, 2016

Out Of The Box

The Firehouse book club strikes again!  Today I'm gonna ramble about a book recommended to me by my driver, and if this is the quality of books she chooses, I will be reading everything she passes to me!  The book is Room by Emma Donoghue and it was INTENSE!  First things first, a quick synopsis followed by a good long rambling.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
The story is told excursively through the eyes of five year old Jack...which is a bit weird, but works really well for this story.  Jack has lived his entire life in an 11x11 foot place called Room.  He lives with his Ma and is very content with his itty bitty life, mostly 'cause he doesn't know any better.  In this Room Jack and his Ma eat, sleep, play, learn, and live as best they can.  At night Ma puts Jack in a wardrobe to sleep until Old Nick is finished with Ma.  We start the book on Jack's fifth birthday and Ma starts to let Jack know that there is more to the world then Room.  This freaks Jack out as literally all he has known was the four wall, floor and skylight that is Room.  Ma does everything she can to teach her little boy, but only so much can learned in such a restricted environment.  Ma tells Jack that she too used to be young, that she had a mom and dad and brother.  She tells Jack that when she was in college a man tricked her and kidnapped her.  She has been held captive for 7 years, giving birth to Jack apx two years into her captivity.  Ma comes up with a plan to escape, but Jack has a bit part he needs to play and he is understandably reluctant.  The plan is to pretend Jack has died from a sickness that they have been faking for a while and when he wraps up the "body" to bury that is when Jack will escape and get help.  The plan...while having a few flaws to hinder it...ends up working and Jack and Ma are finally rescued.  The second half of the book is how the two adjust to being in the world.  For Ma it is coming back to life after 7 years, for Jack it is discovering how to live in a world he didn't even know existed.  Jack and Ma stay in hospital for a while, working with psychologists and doctors to try and adjust to their new life.  Ma's family comes to visit with different reactions.  Her mother is overjoyed to have her daughter back and does her best to try and adjust, taking a shine to Jack almost instantly.  Her father, whom divorced her mother after the kidnapping is happy to see her, but can't accept Jack as anything other then proof of what the monster who took his daughter did to her.  Ma's brother, his wife and young daughter do their best to make Jack feel like a normal kid.  As expected there are many bumps in this road to regaining life.  Ma has a melt down and takes pills which lands her in a real hospital.  Jack goes with his grandmother and step grandfather and I think this is my favorite part of the book to watch this weird little family learn to work together.  Ma is released and she and Jack move into an apartment that is part of the program to get them back into life.  Jack wants to go back to Room, understandably wanting to find comfort in familiarity.  Ma finally agrees and Jack realizes that Room is no longer home and Ma finds some bit of closer.
World Building - The first half of this book is set in Room and the author did a phenomenal job in making this space both a suffocating prison, and a place a little boy calls home.  The rest of the book is set in a contemporary time and place.  Watching Ma and Jack's world expand from an 11x11 room to a whole town was wonderful and very well done.

Story - The story was simple, elegant and complete.  I kept turning the pages, immersed in what would happen next to this little family.  The story felt fairly realistic and well researched.  I think what I liked most about the story was the fact that it showed simple every day things in a whole new light.  Having it told through the eyes of a five year old boy who had never seen the outside world gave a very different, yet very honest point of view.  This is the kind of story that reminds us that all humans have a story to tell and the perspective is everything.

Character - I felt that the characters were the strongest point in this book.  Every single character felt very real and very honest which is very hard to do in a story that could very easily get angsty.  I thought the relationships between each character was valid and appropriate.  I am so so so so so happy that the author showed a perfect mix of compassion, restraint and empathy when it came to every one of her characters.  Ma was in turns strong for herself and her son, and yet had some real issues that I imagine one would have in the situation she was thrust into.  Jack was a great voice to show the reader how confusing and also how simple the every day world can be.  Ma's family showed us the whole spectrum of emotions and reactions people would have when a loved one comes back from such a horrific ordeal.  Even the various doctors, nurses, specialists and reporters had a very authentic feel.

Editing - I don't have a whole lot to say about the editing other then it was border line perfect.  The pacing was wonderful, the story had a beginning, middle and end.  The book progressed in a realistic and understandable was just really well edited (and written).

Family Dynamic - I LOVED the various reactions that Ma's family had to her return and to the fact that she now has a son.  The fathers reaction, while sad, is understandable.  Seeing Jack must have been a constant reminder that he could not protect his little girl from the ravages of the sicko who took her.  Her brother doing his best to treat Jack as a normal kid...had it's issues but it was wonderful to see him do his best to accept Jack at face value.  Ma's mother and new step-father where just great.  I love watching Jack's grandmother try to balance her shock and awe at the weirdness of Jack, with the need to love and help him.  Her solutions to some of his more different problems where both loving and practical.  His step-grandfather was the best at just going with the flow, understanding that sometimes this sheltered little boy just needed some space.  The relationship between Ma and Jack was the absolute best.  The author somehow managed to walk that fine line between Ma being protective, loving and the only thing to matter to Jack without crossing over into weird/gross/uncomfortable territory.  It was truly a story of a mamma doing what ever it took to give her son the best life possible.  This doesn't mean she was perfect, but she did the best she could.

Psychology - Being in the field I am in (medical/EMS/Fire) I see all kind of...well pretty much everything that the human condition has to offer.  I have also in the course of my education had to take numerous psychology while I don't consider myself an expert, I think I can say I have some experience with human psychology.  A lot of times having this knowledge is a downer when I read or watch something, because to many authors ignore the practicalities of human nature so that they can tell a fantastic story.  Not so in this book.  The author really seemed to know her stuff and the varied reactions, time to adjust, mood swings, really just about everything these characters experienced was spot on.  I really really appreciate the effort that went into making this book so believable.

Voice - Like I noted before, this entire story is told in the voice of five year old Jack.  At first it took some getting used fact for a while it was down right annoying, I mean seriously do you have to name EVERYTHING!  As the book progressed though you could watch everything unfold through this unique perspective.  I think what struck me the most was the sheer honesty that this perspective brings.  Most five year olds I know are not that adept at keeping things to themselves and a boy who has only had interaction with one other person is not all that great at lying.  The perspective brought a complete, authentic and different story to the reader and I am very glad that the author made the bold choice to go this route.

Overall Impression - This book was emotional, intense, though provoking, sad, happy, crazy, awesome, it was just really really really well written.  It is not an easy read.  I made the mistake of getting into it on some down time at work and I seriously had to hold back tears on more then one occasion.  As intense and traumatizing as this book is, there is so much hope in it that it balances out perfectly.  I recommend it to anybody looking for a good, emotional read and has some private time to just blitz through it 'cause once you pick it up, you won't put it down.  I give it 8 out of 10 Egg Snakes and can't wait to watch the movie...and pick up another of the authors books.
Happy Reading Everybody!

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