Sometimes the Hype is True!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I am not one of those people who is automatically turned off by something just because everyone else is talking about it.  So when the hype started about Room earlier this fall I was open-minded.  But when reviewer after reviewer gave it five stars and rhapsodized about how fabulous it is, I started to wonder if the publisher was passing out that special kool-aid along with the ARCs.  When my book club chose it for our January selection, I was excited to find out if all of the mayhem and foolishness was warranted.

And it was!  For anyone living under a literary rock for the past several months, Room is the story of Jack, a five year old boy who lives with his mother in Room, an 11x11 foot shed in the backyard of Old Nick, the man who kidnapped Jack's mother seven years before.  Room is the only home, and indeed the only world that Jack has ever known.  To protect him from wanting what he could not have, Jack's mother, Ma, told him that everything outside of room was "in the tv".  When he discovers the truth, he is forced to confront a world that is completely alien to everything he has ever known.

Room is a novel unlike any other I have ever read, and not just because of the five year old narrator.  Donaghue does an admirable job of taking a sensationalized headline and turning it into something multi-dimensional and very human.  As a society we were rather obsessed withe the myth of the rabid stranger collecting young girls-even before we found out that it is not always a myth.  Elizabeth Smart's ordeal seemed to put an exclamation point on all of our fears about the stranger in the parking lot, waiting to pounce.  While her experience is still much more rare than lightning strikes or shark attacks, the very fact that it happened at all lends credence to some of our darkest societal fears.  Donaghue could easily have taken this fictional kidnapping and told it from the mother's point of view, or the media's.  What she did instead makes it a much more human story.  And not just a story about violence against women.  Jack's short life and entry (I can't call it a re-entry) into the world outside of Room was a fascinating look at how children are socialized, and what makes a person part of the world. 


  1. It landed on my "best of 2010" list, also in spite of the hype. It's a brutal read, but man, when I think of what a mess it could have been in lesser hands, I'm even more in awe.

  2. I'm glad you liked it. It's on my favorites of 2010 list as well... even though hype often scares me away.

  3. I haven't read this book yet, but I really want to. I don't care about hypes, I read a book when it looks good to me. I'm just more likely to find out about a hyped book than a non-hyped gem.

    Glad you enjoyed it, I think most people do.

  4. A friend of mine disliked Room, mainly for feeling clogged up on its own idioms. I like your review though. I might give it a run in paperback.

  5. I like hype. I follow it like a rat tagging along behind a piper. I will thus read "Room". Thank you all for the suggestion.


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