Room (novel)

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Room cover.jpg
Author Emma Donoghue
Cover artist Cassia Beck (photography)
Country Ireland
Language English
Genre Novel
Publisher Little, Brown and Company
Publication date
13 September 2010
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback)
Pages 336 pp (hardback)
ISBN 978-0-316-09833-5
Preceded by The Sealed Letter

Room is a 2010 novel by Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue. The story is told from the perspective of a five-year-old boy, Jack, who is being held captive in a small room along with his mother.[1] Donoghue conceived the story after hearing about five-year-old Felix in the Fritzl case.[2]

The novel was longlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize[3] and won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize regional prize (Caribbean and Canada); was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2010 and was shortlisted for the 2010 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize[4] and the 2010 Governor General's Awards.[5]

Plot summary[edit]

The book begins on the fifth birthday of Jack, who lives with his Ma in Room, a small enclosed space containing a small kitchen, a bathtub, a wardrobe, a bed and a TV set. Since it is all he has ever known, Jack likes living in Room and believes that it constitutes the real world, while everything he sees on TV is completely separate and not real.

Jack and his Ma are "looked after" by Old Nick. He visits Room on most nights (via a door secured with an electric combination lock) to bring food and to go to bed with Ma while Jack sleeps in the wardrobe. Ma tries her best to keep Jack healthy via both physical and mental exercises, keeping a healthy diet, limiting TV watching time, and strict body and oral hygiene. She herself suffers from severe toothaches and has to take painkillers regularly.

A week after Jack's birthday, Ma learns that Old Nick has been unemployed for six months. Combined with an incident in which Jack startles Old Nick during the night, causing him to behave violently towards Ma and cut the power in Room for several days, this prompts her to decide that maintaining the status quo is too dangerous. She tells Jack that much of what he sees on TV is part of the real world outside Room, which Jack finds hard to believe, conceptually.

Ma recalls how she was abducted from college at the age of 19, and how Old Nick broke Ma's wrist during an unsuccessful escape attempt. She decides that she and Jack have to escape as soon as possible; she fakes Jack having a fever and diarrhea and that night she demands that Old Nick take Jack to a hospital, because he is "sick". Old Nick refuses, afraid that the boy will inform the authorities about Room. Ma decides instead to simulate Jack's death. Ma attempts to prepare Jack for the escape and for his first encounter with the outside world; she and Jack rehearse the plan, which is for Jack to jump down from the truck when it slows in traffic or stops at traffic lights, and then run for help.

The next night, Ma wraps Jack in their rug and tells Old Nick that Jack has died. She convinces Old Nick to dispose of the wrapped body in a remote location. Jack follows the plan, jumping off the truck a few blocks away from "Room", but is followed by Old Nick. A passer-by, Ajeet, who is out with his dog and his child, rescues Jack and calls the police, giving them what he remembers of Old Nick's license plate. The officers quickly realize the seriousness of the case and, despite communication problems, Jack manages to give them enough information to locate Room and free Ma. The two are taken to a mental hospital, where they get medical care and Ma is reunited with her family, not entirely without conflicts. It is revealed that since Ma's abduction, her parents are now divorced, and her older brother is married and has a three-year-old daughter. Old Nick is found and faces several charges of abduction, rape, and child endangerment that will likely lead to twenty-five years to life in jail. Jack however, has problems coping with the suddenly much larger world and wants to return to Room.

Meanwhile, the case has attracted much attention from the public and the mass media, making it even harder for Jack and his mother to start leading a normal life. After a television interview that ends badly, Ma suffers a mental breakdown and attempts suicide. Jack goes to live with his grandmother and her new partner for several days. During this time Jack becomes even more confused by his surroundings, including his new extended family. Being separated from Ma is hard on Jack, but he slowly starts to adjust to the many changes in his life.

Eventually, Ma and Jack move into an independent living residence. Jack gets his own room, and comes to accept the drastic changes in his young life. At Jack's request, they go on a last visit to Room, where Jack says goodbye to the items that used to make up his world. Jack has moved on from the security of the confined space. Room now seems small and cramped to him, and no longer has the meaning it once held. He is able to bid Room goodbye.

Awards and honors[edit]

Film adaptation[edit]

Main article: Room (2015 film)

In 2013 it was announced that Irish director Lenny Abrahamson will direct a film adaptation of the novel.[7] Donoghue has written the screenplay.[8] In April 2014, Brie Larson signed on to play Ma in the film.[9]


External links[edit]