Jack, the narrator, is five years old and lives with his Ma in Room. In his world, they are the only people that really exist. His friends are the characters on his favourite TV programmes, programmes which depict a world that doesn’t exist for Jack. The only other person he is aware of is Old Nick, the man who comes at night, after he has gone to sleep in a wardrobe, in order to visit Ma.
What we, the readers understand is that Jack’s Ma had been abducted at aged 19 and has been held captive by a rapist, Old Nick – Jack’s father. This story was written is response to the Fritzl case and as such I found it quite sensationalised. However, there’s a definite charm to this story, perhaps most evident in the unwavering love between mother and son.
Even though they live in an 11foot square shed, Jacks Ma insists he keeps fit, running in circuits round Room as PE, eating as healthy a diet as possible and educating him with story books and TV. When events lead Ma to realise that another escape attempt is their only option, she confides in Jack that there is an outside world which they have to get to. Everything Jack believes now comes into question and initially he finds it impossible to comprehend an outside world. Slowly but surely, Ma convinces him that what she says is true and he must be instrumental in their escape.
There were certain details in this book that really impressed me. Upon escaping (sorry if that spoils it) Jack eyesight is tested. As he has grown up in a small room, he cannot focus on objects in the distance. When he arrives at a staircase, he has no idea how to deal with it. Little aspects like this convinced me that heaps of research had been done into the Fritzl case and others like it and, as such, this book wasn’t such a cynical cash-in as I’d originally thought, rather a touching tale of love under adverse conditions and the indomitable will to survive.
“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 want to actually 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.”
If you like the theme of lost innocence you might like Push
If you like the theme of a child’s survival in adverse conditions you might like Zlatas Diary
If you like the theme of unwavering parental love you might like The Scarlet Letter