Room by Emma Donoghue, Post 1

Room by Emma Donoghue is truly an “utterly gripping….heart-stopping novel” (San Francisco Chronicle). There are moments in this strange book where I am forced to stop reading and process what is going on for a couple of minutes. It is disturbingly wonderful, a joy and pain to read all at the same time. Donoghue’s choice of writing this book from the perspective of a five year old boy named Jack is definitely an effective and unique decision. It is totally believable, especially when she misuses or skips some words in his narrative. Jack’s thoughts and emotions are clear and authentic. For instance, the fact that his mother changes stories she reads to him to include his name it in, such as Jackie Wackie Pudding and Pie rather than Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie, makes it all the more realistic. I am not sure I would have written the story from Jack’s adolescent, naive perspective, because it is sometimes distracting, but it does not bother me to the point where I do not want to read this book. It actually makes me want to continue to read, for I am curious to see if as he grows and matures, his language will become more developed and intelligent.

A character in this book I am unclear about is Old Nick. Hopefully, in the next few sections, we will find out what role he plays in this story. I would like to know more about his relationship with Ma and Jack.

I am eager to continue reading this unsettling, yet captivating, novel.

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17 responses to “Room by Emma Donoghue, Post 1

  1. I definitely agree that “Room” is a strange novel, unlike any I have ever read. Many of the events and sexual references create a bittersweet reaction in every section. Emma Donoghue has done an excellent job setting up the story, ambiguous enough to keep me interested yet informational enough not to be entirely confused. In my opinion, the first quarter of the book has been good. I enjoy the idea of the story but the author’s writing style is repetitive and often boring and slow. On that note, I am not entirely sure why Jack and Ma live in the room, but many passages led me to believe they are prisoners of Old Nick. On page 67-68, Ma tells the story about a mermaid, her son JackerJack, and a fisherman, which I believe directly mirrors their own situation. It hints that the Old Nick (the fisherman) has trapped Ma (the mermaid) who together had baby Jack (JackerJack). This leads me to wonder if Old Nick is Jack’s father? When Old Nick says, “‘well, don’t forget when you got him,” (74) I began to believe Nick truly is Jack’s father.

    The close bond and love displayed between Jack and Ma is extremely prominent on every page. I think the power of a mother son relationship will be an important theme throughout the book.

    There is one passage I want to discuss. I am sure all of you were shocked or slightly repulsed as Jack constantly breast fed from Ma, I was. At the age of five he has continued a habit most kids drop at the age of three or four, suggesting that Jack is unclear of social norms and has no clue what life is like outside of the room. Therefore, I predict that as the book progresses, Jack will encounter major troubles as he matures and discovers more about “outside.” I am also excited to continue reading “Room”, yet hope it picks up speed and meets expectations.

  2. erinxu2000

    Julia, I thoroughly agree with your perspective of this book. I, too, experienced that some parts in the book were difficult to read due to the narration and plot. But, I found myself strongly disliking Jack’s perspective and writing of the story. Although it did help make the story more realistic as you addressed, I thought it made the story move slower and eventually did make me want to stop reading the book. For instance, a line in the book would say, “Skateboards are TV and so are girls and boys except Ma says they’re actual, how can they be when they’re so flat?” (Donoghue 63). I found lines like these particularly hard to interpret when they did not connect to anything going on in the rest of the story. Also, the names of the objects were strange to me because I was not used to referring to objects as if they were people, for example Room instead of the room, or TV instead of the TV. Although it was hard for me to continue reading, I felt myself oddly intrigued by the storyline. It surprised me that there was an exact schedule for Jack and Ma’s life that seemed undisturbed for seven years. It made me think about different scenarios whether they were being held captive, or even living in a world where they were prohibited to leave Room.

    Old Nick also appealed to me as a mysterious character due to he regular routine of coming at night and sleeping with Ma. The story foreshadows that he is the father of Jack, but is not married to Ma due to some past conflict.

    Overall, I agree with your opinion of the novel so far and am also eager to engage further into the story.

  3. Julia (since no other comments are showing up, I will respond to your original statement), I totally agree with your confusion due to the way the book is narrated. Like in To Kill a Mockingbird, it brings a lot of perspective and insight into the novel but it tends to add confusion when the narrator is a young child that does not understand much about the situation at hand themselves. What really bothers me to the point that my brain will read sentences with different words is how in the narration Jack addresses all objects as a proper noun. For example, in the second sentence of the novel Jack narrates “I was four last night when I went to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I am changed to five, abracadabra.” (Donoghue 1). My brain adds articles in the middle of sentences when he is naming household objects and the whole thing feels jumbled when these nouns that should not be capitalized are capitalized. Donoghue probably chose to do this to show that Room is the only place Jack knows so all of the objects in the room are portrayed as if they are the only dresser or shelf or bed in the entire world.

    Personally, the only ways I can describe my feelings for Old Nick is uncomfortable. Even though Jack has no clue what is going on with Old Nick, he makes it pretty clear to the narrator that he has most likely kidnapped Ma and continually rapes her while providing sustenance and shelter for her and the product of one of these rapes.

    This novel is intriguing and so far I love it but I hate it at the same time because I cannot handle the thought of the life Ma lives knowing about everything outside of Room.

  4. I have to say after finishing this second part, I was much happier. Besides being more intriguing, exciting, and faster paced, I could not put the book down. The last page left me eager to read more – but I didn’t, and I can’t wait to finish the book soon. When Ma and Jack reunited I was so happy and wanted the book to end there. What worse can happen? Hopefully Ma and Jack will remain safely together. However being only halfway through the book with Old Nick disappearing mysteriously, I am certain the events will become even more important and dangerous. I twinge thinking about the horrible things Old Nick might possible do in the next chapters.

    To further comment on the narrative of the story, I have to disagree that Jack’s writing is difficult to read. For me, his perspective does two things. First, it seems more believable and second I feel empathetic for him. His naive writing demonstrates his oblivion to the world around him, adding a realistic touch and showing that he is absolutely clueless about the world. Although I predict as the novel progresses his language will improve. Second, because of how naive he is, I feel sorry for him. Children should be appreciating the world rather than having just recently discovered there actually is a world.

    I would also like to discuss the correlation between Jacks situation and the Holocaust. During the Holocaust, Jews and other victims were forced to live in tiny, compact spaces similar to Room. This is extremely horrifying and shows how inhumanity still exists in our world today (even though the novel is fictional). I am eager to continue reading Emma Donoghue’s captivating story and find out what will happen between Jack, Ma, and Old Nick.

    • Garland, I could not agree more that the second part of the book was much more intriguing than the first. There were some moments in the final pages where I would have to stop myself from reading too much because I did not want the section to end. The whole planning for an escape was very well thought out and I thought that Emma Donoghue did an outstanding job of tying everything together in the end. Old Nick frightens me too, and I am curious to see what becomes of Ma and Jack in their relationship with him. I find myself wondering if he will capture them again…

      My opinion on the perspective of the story has greatly changed since the beginning of the story. I too believe that it makes it more believable and I imagine myself alongside Jack as he learns more about the world around him, and I realize myself that I take so many things for granted, such as seeing a sunny day outside or being able to talk to more than just my mother.

      One aspect of this novel that is quite interesting is that there are no chapters in the book. Perhaps, this was on purpose, and the author wanted to display a message about life through this unique choice. In life, there are different stages of maturation and growth, but in the end it is all about living and dying. Emma Donoghue, by calling the sections in her novel names like Dying and Living, implies that no matter what goes on in life, may they be happy or sad chapters, in the end we will all die or be alive.
      What a great book, cannot wait to continue reading.

      • erinxu2000

        I agree with both of your comments. I think the second part of the book was a lot more captivating than the first, and left me wanting to read more to see what adventures are in store for Jack and Ma. Also, the language and narrative is not as distracting as it was in the beginning because of everything else going on in the book. As I was reading, I was so interested in the storyline that I barely noticed how undeveloped Jack’s writing was. I feel like as the book keeps going, the plot will continue to become more interesting and page-turning.

        Although Ma’s plan was very precise and planned out, I felt a sickening feeling in my stomach that she would put her son through that danger. While she has experienced the Outside and Jack hasn’t, I felt uncomfortable with the plan that made a five year old supposedly save them. Although Jack did pull it off, I felt that Ma is very daring to make Jack complete this escape.

        I also found it very interesting that Jack turns out to be a girl. This was a plot point that I was definitely not expecting. Now that I know that Jack is a girl, I feel like my perspective during the rest of story will change. Also, when Old Nick ran away, it came across to me that he didn’t care as much about the kidnapping of Ma and Jack, but more about himself.

        Overall, this book has proven to be more exciting and definitely regained my interest to keep reading the novel and I can’t wait to see what happens to Ma and Jack, and Old Nick.

    • Okay. Let me get something strait. You stated it perfectly. I did not like this book when I read the first quarter but now, after reading the first half, I love it!! The second I finish writing this I think I am going to read more, actually because it is such an exciting and heartwarming story. Along with you, Garland, I am mostly intrigued to find out what will happen in the next half of the book because I feel like Emma Donoghue has reached a perfect end.

      I completely agree with you now that the choppy writing style adds to the narrative. It took a while to get used to the style of narration but I do not really notice it anymore other than how it helps to develop Jack’s perspective. Without his childish narration I doubt I would have been so close to tears through this section of the novel. It adds a terrifying, horrific, and beautiful touch of characterization to the entire story. If the novel were to be told from a third person form, even with Jack as a main focus, the book would be far less interesting and I would probably not be biting my nails and gasping every other page.

      As I was reading, I too made a connection between the life inside of Room and the concentration camps of WWII Germany. Ma and Jack’s references to stories about the Holocaust further connected the two.

      What I hate (yet love) about this book is how realistic it is. There are kidnappings all over the world every week and nobody knows how many basements or sheds could possibly contain helpless people in them. I am actually starting to tear up because the thought scares me so much. I cannot stand this book but I am obsessed with it at the same time and I am really excited to continue reading.

  5. Erin, I think you are mistaken, Jack is not a girl. Jack is a boy. Perhaps you think this because Ma talks about having a girl who died, but he is most definitely a boy.

    • erinxu2000

      Oh sorry my bad. I thought he was a girl because when the man that found her asked Old Nick if Jack was okay, he asked, “Hey, mister? I’m so sorry, is your little girl OK?” (Lee 141). After Old Nick says that Jack is fine, the man continuously calls Jack a “her.” Also, when the police questions Jack, he thinks Jack’s name is Jackie instead of Jack and asks about his “dress,” also referring to him as “sweetie.” All these clues led me to think that Jack was a girl, but just didn’t know it because he was so oblivious to everything outside Room. I guess i was just mistaken then..

  6. Wow! What a book! I definitely feel more excited to read the next section now more than any section before. Emma Donoghue really does a fantastic job at intriguing the reader and posing many different ideas out. She writes with humor and taste, all a perfect blend to enjoy myself tremendously. I do not want to continue reading this, yet at the same time, I want to know what happens after the big surprise; is Ma dead??

    The last section before Living absolutely just teared at my heart, “Lots of persons run in, one of them pulls me outside in the corridor. I’m screaming ‘Ma’ as loud as I can but it’s not loud enough to wake her” (Donoghue 249). This is a very serious situation, if Ma overdosed from pills, and the way the author portrays Jack in it is very authentic. I thought her unique choice of ending the section with this powerful passage was a brilliant decision because it made me, as a reader, want to continue reading, it left me sitting on the edge of my seat. I can’t help but wonder, “is Ma dead?” What would happen to Jack if Ma died?

    Another very real scene from this section that I adored was when Jack went out to the store with his Aunt and Uncle. Jack’s curiosity, his naiveness and his innocence shined on every page; from when he pleaded for the Dora backpack, to begging for the picture book, then being confused about his little cousin’s “private parts.” It was very real because I babysit for young kids, and often they ask me questions that I am not sure how to handle. Do I tell them the truth or do I give them some made up fairy tale answer? I’m curious to see if Jack’s extended family will continue to play a large role in his life, now that his Ma could possibly have died…

    There is one point in the novel that made me stop and wonder for a bit. When the interviewer is interviewing Ma, she asks Ma is she ever felt guilty for keeping Jack instead of sending him away with Nick “to leave him outside a hospital, say so he could be adopted. As you yourself were, very happily, I believe” (Donoghue 237). I had always thought that Ma was doing the right thing to take care of her child and keeping him with her at all times, but now I do not know what to think. If Jack had been “happily adopted,” he could have had a normal childhood; he would have been developed like most children his age and not have had to have gone through any terrifying “escape.” But then again, Ma was young and I respect her decision to keep Jack, for he was the only thing that kept Ma sane.

    Wow. I am in love with this book and am dying to know if Ma is still alive!

  7. If I were to summarize this section of “Room” with one word, I would absolutely choose: WOW. Each event of the story was not only exciting and intriguing, but unbelievable and left my jaw hanging. One extremely shocking event was when Jack finds Ma in her “gone” state of being. The fact that she purposely overdoses on pills when 24 hours earlier she told the newsmen, “for me, see, Jack was everything. I was alive again, I mattered,” and later, “I think what babies want is mostly to have their mothers right there,” (233). When she said this I saw the love she displays for Jack; I realized how much she cares for her son. However, her suicide completely contradicts this. Why would she tell the world that Jack means everything to her and then attempt to kill herself during a difficult time in Jack’s life? Is she truly the person Jack described? Or did his naive perspective highlight only the positives? Like you Julia, I am eager yet worried to find more out about Ma. I now sense a mysterious and unsafe vibe coming from her.

    I would also like to discuss the interview, which was an extremely important event in my opinion. When Ma described certain aspects of living in Room, I began to relive the first section of the novel (when Jack narrated the daily lives of he and Ma in Room) from a different perspective. Ma’s story was too advanced for Jack to comprehend, however I gathered from the interview that Ma is easily provoked, emotional, and pessimistic.

    After reading this section, I appreciate Emma Donaghue’s style of writing even more. Although Jack’s grammar is still poor, he has begun to use large words and expand his vocabulary, illustrating one of the many impacts society has had on Jack. Another interesting point was when Jack visits Dr. Clay and narrates, “Dr. Clay says my eyes are super sharp but they’re not used to looking far away yet, I need to stretch them out the window,” (181). Although it seems insignificant, the fact that for five years Jack never looked at an object farther than 11 feet away is almost incomprehensible. It was yet another hidden aspect that left me saying “Wow.”

    “Room” is now honestly one of my favorite books. Each event, each passage, each sentence has left me in complete awe. I cannot wait to continue reading tonight and learn what happens with Ma.

    • Julia and Garland, I completely agree with both of you. Once I finished this section of the book, I was left staring at the blank “Living” cover page for a whole five minutes just to process what had just happened. Also, “wow” is the perfect word to describe my feeling about the book, which is a completely different feeling than I had when we just started reading. Every event that took place in this section left me in awe, amazed at the creativity of the plot line Emma Donoghue had come up with.

      Of course, the most crucial event that took place was Ma’s suicide attempt. Leaving her readers on a cliff hanger, Donoghue creates a huge climax and change of mood on the story. the entire previous section being based on happiness for their escape, Ma’s violent action made me question whether or not Ma was happy the entire time. This led me to thinking if she had regrets of the escape or not, even though she assured Jack that she didn’t. I truly think that Ma may have overdosed a little too much and has a great possibility of death because of some context clues like when Noreen says, “Code blue, room seven, code blue–” or when Jack says “Bad idea bad idea bad idea” (Donoghue 249). Watching many medical related tv shows, I know that code blue means that the patient may be unconscious and that it is seeking immediate medical help to check for respiratory or cardiac arrest. After reading this, it felt like I, too, was experiencing this along with Jack because of the intense and terrified mood change.

      Julia, your point about possibly giving Jack a normal childhood made me wonder if it was an act of selfishness on Ma’s part, or the thought of trusting Old Nick with Jack. I was thinking that one reason Ma didn’t give up Jack could have been because she was selfish and wanted someone to keep her company, or if she didn’t trust Old Nick to give Jack to a loving family. This really got me thinking about Ma’s morals and beliefs.

      Overall, my feelings toward this book have increased so much and I cannot stop reading the book. As a matter of fact, I am going to finish the rest of the book right now.:)

      • All three of you, I assume, will agree with me when I say I want a movie of this. This book is attention grabbing and just plain interesting. Honestly, I do not dislike reading but I am not easily pleased by books. At the start of this novel I could barely comprehend the grammar, the plot was slow and dry, and I just kept thinking to myself “why did we choose this book”. Now, I could not imagine ever thinking that about the book again.

        I am so curious about what happened with Ma. Most of me really hopes that she is okay but there is that part of me that thinks it would be easier, as a reader, to accept the fact that she overdosed rather that enduring all of Jack’s questions about motives and drug usage. Of course I would never WANT her to die. When she was being interviewed, everything she was saying, especially the moments Garland quoted, forced me to stop reading for a second and smile. So, obviously, I do not desire her death but I’m not sure I will be able to handle Jack’s reaction to either outcome.

        When he went to the mall with his Aunt and Uncle, I was laughing and feeling bewildered at all of the things Jack did not know. Julia, just to clarify, Jack did not beg for the picture book in the store, he stole it. In my opinion this was a tell tale moment where his social skills lacked due to his early isolation.However I was also stunned at his cousin. First of all, no offense to the parents but what kind of a name is Bronwyn. It’s a little too unique in my opinion. Also what annoyed me was how bratty she was yet her parents acted as if everything Jack did was wrong and Bronwyn is the perfect princess in public.

        Going back to the interview, I feel that the interviewer should have never asked Ma why she decided to keep Jack. The interviewer broke the interviewee’s boundaries and those should be respected, especially when dealing with such a touchy subject. However, after the question was asked, Ma probably should have reacted differently. I think it is safe to assume that if a typical young mother were asked that question, she would not react as harshly as Ma did. Clearly she is not a normal mother under anything near regular circumstances, but she probably could have summoned the willpower to respond more calmly.

        All in all, I am in love with this book so far and I am anticipating the end.

  8. Room by Emma Donoghue, 8.5/10

    “Room” by Emma Donoghue is an intense, truly gripping and thought provoking novel that follows the story of a young boy named Jack and his mother, whom he calls Ma. Jack uses simple names for every single aspect of his life; every item in his room has its own one worded description, like Wall or Plant. The only worlds he knows about are either inside of Room, or Outside. His knowledge is only as vast as the perimeters of the Room he and his mother live in. Old Nick, the antagonist in this story, kept Jack and his mom hostage all of Jack’s life, and through the various sections in the book, “Presents,” “Unlying,” “Dying,” “After,” and “Living,” one can see as both of these major characters grow in their many adventures and encounters with other characters until the very end at the shocking finale.

    Emma Donoghue does an incredible job at showing Jack’s growth throughout the novel by making it a parallel in the language she uses from the start of the book to the last few pages. At first, she writes in a broken, childlike manner, similar to the way Jack’s brain works because of his age and living situations. However, as the story progresses, the language becomes more fluid, much like the thoughts in Jack’s mind that make is more relateable for a reader.

    Another aspect of this intriguing novel that makes it so lovable is the suspense the author always keeps the reader in. Every sentence has its own story, and so it is almost impossible to put the book down. A section never ends with a satisfying finish, and so one is forced to continue reading in order to feel content. The psychological questions and references are enough to keep one interested for long periods of time, making Room such an amazing book to read.

    This book would most be enjoyed by students in high school who enjoy being kept on the edge of their seats, are able to understand humor, and who are willing to challenge their minds to think of the deeper meanings in stories. Emma Donoghue’s novel “Room” deserves an 8.5 out of 10 rating because of its unwavering ability to keep on interested and for being so relateable, despite the slow beginning.

    • erinxu2000

      Room by Emma Donoghue: 8.5/10

      Julia, I completely agree with your rating for this book. As you summarized, Jack and Ma were held hostage for Jack’s entire life, later escaping into the “Outside” and discovering a whole new world.

      You focused a lot on how the language affects the story line in contrast of the beginning and end of the novel, and I definitely agree with you. In addition to the progress of Jack’s language throughout the novel, I feel like the obvious change of the different world provided an immense development, that also showed how the characters grew. In Room, both Ma and Jack were isolated from the world, having to live with little provided to them, and a strict, more stable schedule. Once they go to the Outside, they are nurtured and are provided with everything they would ever imagine to recover from the years they were kidnapped. Although this is a very obvious contrast in the book, it still provides an important message of how both characters grew and learner from the different worlds.

      Also as you said, the novel was tremendously intriguing. To me, Emma Donoghue is able to keep the readers’ attention throughout the whole book because of how relatable the situation is to reality. More importantly, the physical and mental trauma and shock Ma and Jack experience provides readers to think about their life and the problems that our society has. While reading this book, I especially felt really moved by the plot and how the affects of kidnapping in one’s life, eventually relating it to all world issues I am aware of that deal with the separation of one’s original world and their norm.

      Lastly, I would definitely recommend this book to freshmen. The book is a somewhat easy read and can be finished in a short time period, especially because of how interesting and capturing the plot is. But, the concept and idea of the kidnapping can also be sometimes difficult to really analyze and understand, which I feel freshman students can do. Connecting the story to a universal idea while still enjoying the story is the level in which high school freshman students can manage, and I think they will greatly enjoy this novel.

  9. “Room” by Emma Donaghue 9/10

    With the exception of the first section of the novel, Emma Donaghue’s “Room” was extremely well-written, exciting, and captivating. Like you stated Julia, each sentence was its individual story which allows the reader to understand more about Jack with each thought. Being such an oblivious child, Jack’s thoughts were often silly and made me laugh silently.

    Emma Donaghue’s writing skills are incredible and keep the reader hooked through the whole story. Jack describes everything he sees and every action he takes, and because he is so young he fails to understand everything however as the reader I fully understand what is going on. Donaghue also displays the strong love between Jack and Ma, especially when Jack learns he is a human, but he says he is a “me-and-Ma as well.” Certain passages like that illustrated the power of a mother-son relationship.

    Like we predicted in the first section, Old Nick was a mysterious yet evil character who angers me still. I really enjoyed how attached I became to each character. Ma, Grandma, and especially Jack will always make me smile while Old Nick reminds me of villains in fairytales. However, my favorite part of the novel was the innocence of Jack’s voice. If a narrator had told the story I would be much less intrigued. Jack’s naive personality shines in each sentence and I fell in love with Jack from the first page. I was able to learn how a child sees the world, as well as how life is so complex and often times children understand that fact more than adults.

    Overall, I really enjoyed reading “Room” and definitely recommend it to readers searching for an eye-opening, captivating story. Despite being bored by the first section, the rest of the novel deserves a 9/10. It was an exciting page turner and the writing made me feel included in the story.

  10. “Room” by Emma Donaghue 9/10

    I loved this book. Even though the first section was slow and hard to get through, it was made up for later on. “Room” is such a heartwarming, thrilling, mind-boggling, and all together interesting novel.

    What really made it a great book, in my opinion, was Jack’s narration. Jack’s voice added innocence, humor, and light to the entire story. If Donaghue had chosen to tell the story though the perspective of Ma, for example, the whole plot would have been more dark. Jack added a sense of naivety that no other character would’ve been able to convey. Somehow, Jack managed to make a story that would be extremely terrifying in real life.

    I ended up falling in love with the main characters. Their story made me think though, what if there are people trapped in Rooms by Old Nicks all around us. This novel actually scared me by opening me up to the possibility that this could be real.

    Overall “Room” by Emma Donaghue was captivating, humorous, and all in all a great read. Even though I did not originally like the first section, I later realized it was a crucial part of the story. I would recommend this book to anyone, that’s why I rated it 9/10.

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