Friday, January 7, 2011
Publisher/Format: Hachette audio 10 hours 45 min, 336 pg equivalent
Narrators: Michal Friedman, Ellen Archer, Robert Petkoff, Suzanne Toren
Characters: Jack, Ma, Old Nick
Subject: kidnapping, abuse, captivity
Setting: Room and Outside
Genre: fiction, suspense
Source: public library audio download
It is easy to see why this was such a talked about book in 2010 and why it was on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize. The writing is exceptional, the story compelling, and the characters so well portrayed that the reader feels they are living the story with them. The story is told entirely in Jack's words, a point of view that brings a fresh and engaging yet terrifying perspective.
ROOM is Jack's world. Jack is a 5 year boy, imprisoned in an 11x11 shed with his mother. Ma was abducted 7 years ago by Old Nick who visits periodically bringing supplies, and especially the "Sunday Treat." Because Jack knows only what is in ROOM, his world image is limited. They have rug, matress, chair, table, shelf, stove, toilet, bath, wardrobe and rocker, to all of which Jack attaches almost anthropomorphic characteristics. They watch TV, but, with the exception of Dora the Explorer, he views that as "OUTSIDE" and scary, and mostly not real. He cannot conceive of 'others' as real people. The pair bonds in an extraordinary fashion, and while Jack's intellectual development and vocabulary bloom from all the games they play and the TV they watch, his social development is non-existant. He has never spent a minute separated from his mother.
Reading this book is a chilling experience, but one that is very, very satisfying in the end. Having the story told from the viewpoint of a 5 year old whose only experience of the world is through the prism of TV, the five books his mother has managed to con out of Old Nick, or whatever memories his mother chooses to share is what really makes this such an incredible story. I really don't want to give away anything because the tension needs to build for the reader (or listener) to enjoy the full impact. I listened to the audio where Jack's voice is perfectly done. The cadence is perfectly for a five year old. I intend to get a print copy to add to my permanent collection, but feel this is one book that is just as good in audio (if not better) than print. It is my first 5 star read of the year.