Room by Emma Donoghue

Dublin-born playwright, literary historian and novelist Emma Donoghue has been critically lauded for her latest novel, Room, a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and an international bestseller. The attention she’s received for this unique, disturbing and awe-filled work is well deserved. Five-year-old Jack, who lives in the eleven-by-eleven foot space that is the title’s namesake with his Ma, narrates Room with a voice that is as compelling as it is convincing. Room contains Jack’s entire world – the stain on the Rug where he was born, the Bed where he and Ma sleep, the Wardrobe where she shuts him in safely every night in preparation for the visits of Old Nick, and the TV that provides a confusing perspective of a world outside where the ten o’clock news is as much a fantasy as SpongeBob. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the space of Jack’s whole life and comfort is Ma’s prison, and her desperation to escape will require both of them to stretch the limits of their stifled imaginations. While a literal and thrilling story in its own right, Room also becomes a brilliant allegory for all parent-child relationships: for a small child, his mother can often feel like his entire world, while her child’s love both traps her and gives her very existence meaning. The inevitable opening up of the rest of the world is differently wondrous and traumatic for both of them. The space of Room emphasizes the closed-circuit intimacy of the mother-child connection, as well as the claustrophobia and incredible creativity and love therein. Look for an interview with Emma Donoghue in an upcoming issue of Irish America. – Kara Rota (336 pages / Little, Brown and Company)