Room

I am excited to finally be able to discuss Room, the first book we selected to read as part of the PBF book club.

Discussion questions will be posted after my review and I hope those of you who read the book will enjoy participating in a discussion in the comments section of this post.

Additionally, feel free to post your own review and thoughts about the book in the comments section as well. I love reading book reviews!

room

My Review

I heard a lot about Room before I dove in an started reading. I heard it was dark, hard to get into, hard to put down, compelling, chilling, intriguing.

I must admit, I was a little unsure how I would like the book when I heard that it was written from the perspective of a five-year-old boy, Jack. I read a couple reviews where people said they had a hard time getting over his narration, but I didn’t really struggle with his voice. I found his storytelling adorable, innocent, imaginative and easy to read.

Jack is a young boy who lives in an 11 by 11 foot room with his mom. He was born in the room and has never stepped foot outside. The book follows Jack’s thoughts as he slowly learns that there is life outside the room.

Though Jack and his mom are being held captive in the room in a situation that would obviously be traumatic and terrifying,  I didn’t find the book dark and menacing.

I know many people feel that Room is disturbing, but I enjoyed reading it for the amazing love and bond between Jack and his mother. His “Ma” managed to make the room a home for Jack and a place where he looked forward to daily activities, stories, crafts and games. I honestly felt inspired by Jack’s mother’s creativity and intense desire to help her child learn and grow despite such dire circumstances.

SPOILER ALERT

Do not continue reading if you haven’t already finished the book!!!

The second half of the book was very different from the first. (I personally preferred the first half.)

While I was compelled to sit with the book for hours in the second half as well as the first, I found myself frustrated in the second half by Jack’s mother’s decisions and his grandparents’ actions. (Loved his stepdad though!) 

But what I found myself thinking about most during the second half was whether or not the room was such a bad place for Jack to grow up in after all. Jack was immersed in imagination, love, attention, and stimulation.

I loved how the author didn’t make Jack’s transition into the outside world seamless. I thought it was great that she made it clear that Jack liked his time in the room. While the room was a prison to Ma, the room was home to Jack. 

Discussion Questions

Feel free to answer one or all of the questions below or post your own review of the book in the comments section of this post to begin a discussion about Room.

  1. What would you do differently if you were Jack’s parent? Would you tell Jack about the outside world from the start?
  2. Do you think Jack benefited in some way from being raised in the room for so many years?
  3. If you were Ma, what do you think you would you miss most from the outside world?
  4. What would you ask for, for Sundaytreat?

Comments

  1. says

    I’m glad you enjoyed this book! I personally struggled with Jack’s voice but I eventually got used to it. I found the entire thing quite dark, however, I enjoyed the second part much more than the first.

    I dont think Jack benefited from being in the room at all!! Sure his mom was creative and did the best she could for him, but i cant imagine how not being in the world during such formative years will affect him in the future.

    If i were Ma, i would miss interaction with other people!! That has to drive you insane!! I think that once she was out and didnt have to worry about jack being cared for soley by her, that she slipped into even more of a depression that sparked her suicide attempt. Coming back into the world and realizing all she missed and the magnitude of what Nick has taken from her.

    On a lighter note – for Sundaytreat I’d totally ask for ice cream ;)

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  2. Alisha says

    I definitely had some difficulty reading this but it was very unique.

    I think I would tell him about the outside world. His Ma kind of threw all this information at him at once because she felt he was old enough to understand and it was time to try and escape. He thought she was lying. Everything he though was fake or “TV” was real and while he’s out of Room he is afraid of everything at first because he never thought it was real. It was so hard for him to understand that were in a bad place which just made me feel so sad for Ma because Room was different for both of them.

    I think there was no benefit at all to being raised in Room. His mother did a good job for what she has in the circumstances but out in the world there was no benefit for him. The only good I can think of is the relationship he has with his Ma but it does come with the bad like seperation is and will be hard for Jack.

    I think I would miss my family and friends the most!

    I would ask for books like everyone else I think. You have it for a long time and it could keep you busy for a long time.

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  3. jenny says

    I loved the book – I think reading from Jack’s perspective actually made the reading experience more absorbing… I read a lot, and using that tone of voice just helped me get into the book seamlessly (although it was a lot harder to “wake up” from it when I had to go to work)

    As far as Ma’s choice goes, I’m not sure that the option of not telling jack about the outside world would have even occured to me…. whether or not it was the right or wrong decision, the fact that she even came up with and sustained that plan for so long is impressive alone.

    I think figuring out sundaytreat must have been the hardest thing for Ma – you know she wanted to have something special, but at the same time had basic items like clothing she needed to ask for.

    Finally, like a lot of people commenting, I was touched by Ma’s and Jack’s closeness but slightly disturbed at the level of it sometimes. I think some of the things were more for Ma’s comfort and just inhibited Jack – for example, him never bathing without Ma in the tub with him.

    @Claire – somehow I missed the all fours thing! I’ll have to go find it….

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  4. jaci says

    Honestly, I don’t think I would have done anything different when it came to telling me things because of his age. Though the situation is totally different, I grew up with a single mother who did her best to be completely honest with me and treated me as an adult with honest answers when she thought the timing was best or honesty was needed. I remember one time when I was in pre-K I asked my mom what being gay meant and she went into this long story about how when to men or two women love each other, etc., ect. and I just looked at her and said “oh, my teacher thought it meant gay”. I also think that growing up in room wasn’t “great” for Jack, but he was extremely literate for his age (especially compared to the cousin) and quite creative. The obvious disadvantages come from the lack of personal contact with the outside world and all that comes with being locked in a room for the first 5 years of his life.

    I think it all happened so fast because she realized that Old Nick didn’t care whether or not they survived, so she needed to do something to try and save them.

    As far the closeness goes, I personally think it was for the both of them to feel safe. If I were locked up in a small room I think I would totally bathe with my child and I didn’t find the breast-feeding weird like so many people in the book did. I guess most people are use to their lives and the world around them, so seeing a small child rather than a baby breast-feeding is not “normal”, but when you and your child are already malnourished because you are being held captive, breast-feeding is the only way to ensure a bit more nutrients and nourishment is being pumped into your child’s body.

    Overall, I absolutely loved this book, but got annoyed with how little the grandmother understood the situation (I also really, really disliked the real grandfather, but could kind of understand). I felt for Ma and how she struggled with trying to be the constant, and sole figure to Jack since that’s what he was use to (along with being a typical needy, annoying 5 year old) while trying to regain a little bit of her old independent life. Being a parent is hard for anyone I think, so being a parent while being thrown back into a world at 26 that you were taken out of when you were 19 would have to cause such an internal struggle.

    I’m with you and didn’t find this book to dark or disturbing, for me it was more of a love story between a parent and their child.

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  5. Kate M says

    I also preferred the first half of the book to the second. I found Ma’s character development within the room interesting. You could feel the terror develop as she realized how the room was effecting Jack’s understanding of the world. Then when she started explaining their circumstances you could hear the flood gates open and feel the sense of relief that she was finally able to talk to someone about what had happened. You get an idea of how young she actually is.

    Great book, I simply couldn’t put it down! Thanks for suggesting it!

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  6. says

    did anyone listen to the audiobook of this? I did and loved it. It was a little weird hearing a kids voice on end for hours, but you got used to it.

    I loved the 2nd half of the book better. The first half kept creeping me out.

    I kept trying to figure out whether or not “ma” was raped regularly, or if “old nick” just gave up after he bore two children.

    Coming from a sociology background I found this book very intriguing. I keep trying to figure out what happened to “old nick” for him to want to do this to them. Will Jack also crave similar things because of this?

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  7. says

    I really was not a fan of Room! I wrote a longer review on my blog (http://www.rachelwilkerson.com/2011/09/07/room-and-a-stolen-life-reviews/) but here were some of my main issues with it:

    1. The book doesn’t have a plot for the first 100 pages. That’s a really long time to go without a plot. I got really bored and was tempted to go online looking for spoilers, just so I’d know there was something coming eventually.

    2. After a few pages, the novelty of the child narrator wore off and I just found him annoying. And a little unrealistic. He knows big words like “omnivore” but he says things like “Ma hotted up my food in the microwave.”

    3. The second “act,” so to speak, was awful. There were a few highlights, but on the whole, the whole thing seemed better suited for a novella or short story that ended after those awesome ten pages during the rescue.

    4. The breastfeeding creeped me out.

    5. I found Ma pretty unlikeable throughout the book. What really shocked me was her suicide attempt. After all that, after seven years of unimaginable horror, after risking her own life and her child’s life…she went and downed a bottle of pills??

    6. Jack’s family members weren’t very nice people.

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  8. Beth (Well I'll Be) says

    I’m a little late to book club, but the discussion has been great so far! I loved the book. I have to say the whole time when they were out I was kind of waiting for something to happen and I guess that’s the role the suicide attempt filled. I kind of kept waiting even after that and then the book ended. It was great hearing about their adjustments though. The most interesting to me was in the end when Ma is talking about her social interactions and how she’s not like she used to be and the Dr’s tell her she had to change to survive. It’s so true. I’m sure everyone (including Ma) thought they’d pick up where they left off, but it was impossible. Thinking about stuff like that just blows my mind.
    It made me so mad when Paul and his family attempted to take Jack to the museum and did something as careless as stopping off for a birthday present! The whole time I was thinking “This is one of the biggest moments of his life and you’re worried about a birthday gift!” Everything turned out fine but I was a nervous wreck. I think that’s one of the little things that just shows the contrast between everyone elses’ everyday lives and Ma and Jack’s when they were in Room.
    I wish they’d touched a little more on how everyone dealt with the disappearance. I thought it was interesting how different her parents dealt with it, which ended up tearing them apart. Maybe in addition to another book from Ma’s POV there could be one from the familys’.

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  9. says

    I LOVED this book, a lot. I thought the author did a great job at writing it from Jack’s perspective. I think it would be really neat if there were books from another point of view too.

    I think Ma did the right thing, not telling Jack – probably made it easier for him, and she did a really good job teaching him things (like how to read, etc.)

    The question of whether or not Jack will be messed up in the future was interesting to me, too (but I’m a psychology instructor, so…)

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  10. Amanda says

    I have just read this book, and could hardly put it down! It certainly wasn’t a lovely pleasant read, but it was so good. Some bits were super intense, but I loved loved LOVED the point of view it was told from. It put a spin on a really horrid situation that could have been so heavy. I found it overall to be a fine balance between the repelling and compelling.

    In terms of the attempted suicide – I’m not sure Ma was trying to end her life. I think she was just really struggling to deal with the outside world. After trying desperately to get out of Room for so long, I think the outside came with unexpected problems, like thinking about financial security. Ma was just overwhelmed by this all, and it came to a head in the interview. I think she just wanted to escape for a bit, and she loved Jack too fiercely to leave forever.

    I thought the ending was beautiful too, it made me cry! I definitely looked at the world differently after reading this book.

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  11. James says

    Here’s the thing: I loved Room soooo much and the suicide attempt from Ma really ruined it for me. I just don’t ever think that she would do that! Maybe seeing things through Jack’s point of view masked her pain a little. I know how hard it was for her, but I honestly do not see that happening and I was just so disappointed with her. Where does she think he would go? Grandma and Steppas? Pauls? Your mother, especially in this case, committing suicide has an INCREDIBLE affect on your child, and its the most selfish thing I could think for her to do. No matter what I hear about her terrible pain, I can’t make out a reason why she would do this. It felt completely out of place with her character

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