Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bookshelf: Emma Donoghue



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I've been slacking of late and I apologize profusely. I've neglected to review the last two books I've read and while I'd like to blame it on travel and Christmas and Star Wars marathons on Spike, what it really boils down to is my laziness. It's disgusting how much I love to just lay on the couch and do nothing. I've been neglecting my writing as well. It's completely unacceptable. So, in an attempt to right things I'm going to do one post today and, well, tomorrow is New Years' Eve so I probably won't get to reviewing "Some Day This Pain Will Be Useful To You" until next week. That's not to say anything is wrong with the book, it was actually quite good, but it's going to take baby steps to get this all done. So much to write and so little motivation. On we forge.

Emma Donoghue's "Room" is this perfect mix of amazing creation and seriously disturbing topics. It really is perfect. At the same time it sticks in your skin like a splinter and festers there, reminding you every once in a while that's it's still there, sharp and painful.

"Room" begins on Jack (the narrator's) fifth birthday. He and Ma live in an 11x11 foot world. It's all he's ever known, from the bed they share, to the five books they have memorized together, to the egg snake hiding under the bed (literally made from the shells of used eggs). There is a skylight where they can see when it's day and night and aside from the nightly visits from Old Nick Jack knows nothing but the smell of Outside. Outside of Room is not real for Jack. What he knows is what he's grown up being able to touch and smell and taste in their tiny world.

I've always wondered about the girls/women who suddenly escape from their abductors, like Jaycee Dugard. What must life be like stuck in a horrible, claustrophobic world for years with no hope at escape, being held captive and forced to do unspeakable things. Where does the mind go to survive such things?

Jack doesn't know that anything is wrong with his life. In fact, he thinks it's pretty much perfect, just he and Ma and Dora and Boots on the TV. But being an outsider reading about his innocense makes it even more horrific. Imagine not knowing about the feeling of grass beneath your bare feet or rain or a breeze on your face. Imagine not knowing that these things even exist.

"Room" was pretty horrific to read (and maybe it's just the fact that I'm not a mother, but I found Jack's continual desire to breast feed, AT FIVE YEARS OLD, and his description of it being "creamy", to be the most disturbing aspect of the book - but obviously without social norms to guide a young mother she would have no idea what age breat feeding becomes less appropriate at) and yet the writing, even in its distorted grammtatical state (the improper tense and madeup words made me dizzy, but I sort of enjoyed it... odd) was beautiful. But I suppose it's because Jack is five. If he was fifteen and still speaking improperly I wouldn't have been able to make it through the book.

I just remembered the other part that sincerely bothered me and it involves a dead tooth. That's all I'm going to say about it because just thinking back on it makes me feel a bit queasy.

I'm sure this has completely scared you off from wanting to read "Room" but it shouldn't. Sometimes really good books are hard to read because they bother our sense of safety and what is right. And that's okay. It's interesting. It pushes against our mental boundaires and makes us think. And that's important.

I have a good friend who simply refuses to read books. He reads the newspaper and the occasional self-help book but that's it. And I think about it constantly. I don't know why exactly it bothers me, maybe because books are such an intrinsic part of me. I really can't imagine not reading. It would be like not breathing or eating. For the longest time I've wanted to buy him a book, but the trouble is, it would have to be a damn good book, the perfect hook to get him to fall in love with books and I'm fearful that given the wrong book he would continue to not read. So I haven't bought him a book.

Where was I going with this? Sometimes my brain thinks much too quickly for my fingers to type it all out and I get completely lost and don't know what I was saying. Oh, right. "Room" is not a book that I would give this friend to read. I'd have to ease him into it with maybe "Water for Elephants" or "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" (he's big into finances) first. Regardless, if you're reeading this blog then you are not him. You most likely have an insatiable thirst for literature and therefore I can recommend (and highly) "Room" to you. Yes, it's disturbing and it will make you think about kids that go missing every day and where some of them end up. But would you really want to read happy go lucky books one after the other? No. You need a not so happy subject once in a while to liven things up. And anyways, there were so many moments of uncensored, innocent child thoughts that made me laugh. Of course a child that's spent his entire life in a room with five books is going to think that those books are the only books in the world. And so when he's at a mall (can you imagine the sensory overload?) and sees that same book he's going to wonder, how did my book get from "Room" to here? Donoghue is simply brilliant. Please, please, please go pick up "Room".

Alright, I'll be back again soon to post about "STPWBUTY". Early next week... hopefully. Off I go.

Happy reading!

~Stephanie
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