Last month, I served as moderator for our May book discussion of Room by Emma Donoghue. “Room” is home to 5 year old Jack but to his “Ma” “Room” represents an 11 by 11 foot prison where she has been held captive for the past 7 years at the hands of her abductor. Narrated by Jack, Room explores the intense bond between mother and child and the confines of their physical world. Room was short listed for the 2010 Man Book Prize and was one of the New York Times top 10 books of 2010.
To capture the horrific conditions that Jack and Ma endured, I outlined an 11 by 11 foot square on the floor in the center of the discussion group with masking tape. As our group of 31 discussed the book, our eyes kept looking at that 11 by 11 foot space and trying to imagine existing in that small space for the last seven years with no connection to the outside world. It was an effective tool that enhanced the discussion. Most participants liked the book, even with its difficult subject matter. A few people found the author’s use of 5 year old Jack as narrator to be a poor choice but most found Jack’s narration added to the books dynamic. The group also touched upon such topics as child abduction, motherhood, the human condition, resilience, isolation, faith, hope and bravery just to name a few. Everyone agreed that the author paid close attention to detail in capturing the element of setting. We also discussed such infamous child abduction cases as Ethan Patz and Jaycee Lee Dugard. A few members of the group, myself included, had read Jaycee Lee Dugard’s memoir “A Stolen Life” and we briefly discussed a few topics in this book as well. I finished up the discussion by asking the group what they would miss most about the outside world if they were to find themselves in a situation similar to Jack and Ma’s. The majority of the group said they would miss having contact with family and friends, while others said they would miss the chance to breathe fresh air and see the seasons change.
Room is an emotionally charged book. The grim subject matter stays with you long after you have finished reading it. As was evidenced from our discussion group, there were many topics to discuss. If you are thinking about Room as a book choice for you book group or just want to have some additional information about the book, I would suggest visiting www.roomthebook.com. This is an interactive website for the book which has the floor plan of “Room” as the author envisioned it.
- posted by Lisa J., Readers’ Services