The story itself, that is inspired by the case of Josef Fritzl, is very extraordinary. But because it is written from a little boy’s perspective, who doesn’t understand by his nescience in what situation he’s in, makes it even more special. Because of the vivid writing style of award-winning writer Emma Donoghue you can, strangely, really feel with the five-year-old Jack. Like that he counts his teeth when he’s nervous, because that calms him down. You really start to love Jack. Also the strong relationship between him and his mother is credible.
The book starts a bit prosy, since Jack and his mom are in one room all the time. You also don’t understand yet what the story is about. They do many things like playing, singing, reading, making rimes… But it’s not that interesting to read. Yet you will soon notice that something strange is going on. Who is that so called ‘Old Nick’ who brings them their groceries on Sunday? And why does Jack have to sleep in a wardrobe when ‘Old Nick’ comes to visit Jack’s mom? Mustn’t Jack go to school and his mom to work? Why has Jack such a big fantasy and why does he think that everything on TV does not exist for real?
In the next chapter ‘Unlying’ is really told what is going on: Jack’s mother was kidnapped when she was nineteen and then locked up in a shed where they are now. Jack was born two years later, on a rug. It’s really touching to read how badly Jack’s mom wants Jack to understand how difficult it is for her and has been, but at the same time has to hold herself together because she understands he doesn’t know differently.
‘Dying’ is the most impressive chapter. It’s about Jack and his mom who are doing their ‘great escape’. You can’t stop reading because it’s so nerve-racking. You don’t even want to think about what will happen if their escape will fail.
After a successful get-away, Jack is for the first time of his life outside. He constantly has to remember himself that all the things he sees, that he sometimes recognizes from TV, is ‘real for real’.
The last thing described in the book is their recovery, which is also a sad part. They end up in a clinic where they get therapy. But they’re in a state that is worse than Jack’s mother was hoping. Jack does his best but he finds it difficult to fit in the world. The wind hurts his skin, the light hurts his eyes, he has to talk to other people than his own mom, he has to wear shoes… He’s exhausted and admits to his mother that he wants to go back to Room, his home. Besides all this, Jack and his mom become famous with their story of being hostages for seven years. That doesn’t make things much easier. At a certain point Jack’s mother can’t handle it all anymore…
“In Room me and Ma had time for everything. I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter over all the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there’s only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on the next bit.”