It seems I have a thing for sad books. I thought I had a thing for sci-fi books, or fantasy books, or maybe YA books, but no, I have a thing for tragic, make-you-ugly-cry books, be they about kids with cancer or kids with dead parents or kids who just plain need a hug because of everything they've been through. Basically, if it's a book about a young person in tragic circumstances, I'm all over it.
I have not yet seen the movie adaptation of Room but I'm sure you have, in which case you know exactly how beautiful this story is. If you haven't seen it, I'm sure you've seen the trailers.
Room is a story about a young woman who was kidnapped and kept as a sex slave, gave birth to a baby boy, and raised him in their tiny prison until one day she smuggles him out so that he might rescue them both. The story is told entirely from the first person point of view of the five-year-old Jack, who calls his mother Ma, and we never learn her name. The one-room shed where they are held together has a television, so Jack grows up believing he, Ma, and their captor are the only "real" people in the entire world- a world comprised only of Room- and that everything he sees on television is fake.
This is a book about culture shock. Imagine being thrust into the world for the first time after only ever knowing one other human being. Imagine entering a world where you technically speak the language, but many words and ideas are still totally foreign to you and you're forced to learn by immersion. Imagine leaving a cell where you actually felt safe because the only other person there devoted her whole life to protecting you, and gaining a freedom that leaves you vulnerable in an uncaring, hostile world.
This is a book about parenthood- and especially motherhood. Although most of us, praise God, will never experience what Ma and Jack live through, all parents know what it's like to hold your newborn for the first time and realize that you would literally give your life for her, that nothing else matters in this world except this tiny perfect person. The book reads as sort of an extreme case study in attachment parenting- to keep him alive and feeling safe, Ma continues to breastfeed Jack the entire five years that they live in Room, and when someone questions her decision to do so, she shoots back that of all the things he's been through in his short lifespan, is this really something that would damage him? As Jack tries to adjust to Outside, he, in his innocence, makes observations about the way other parents treat their children- observations that hit you like a punch to the gut when you realize he feels pity for these families who have lived normal lives, not in captivity.
Finally, this is an incredibly pro-life book. I feel like maybe an editor must have pointed this out to Ms Donoghue before publishing, because at one point Ma goes out of her way to say that her experience in no way invalidates society's "need" for abortion- a line that feels like a hastily written apology to those who might take offense to the author's stirring (if accidental, apparently) defense of those children conceived in rape.
All in all this is an incredibly powerful book, and even if you've seen the movie, I encourage you to read it. (I need to get around to seeing the movie myself.)
What have you read lately?