Kids Say the Darnedest Things

I just finished Room by Emma Donoghue.

This story is told from the voice and eyes of a five-year old named Jack, whose whole world is Room and his Ma. Room is his world because he was born “into captivity.” I know that sounds like something you see at the zoo. But really, his mother was kidnapped and kept in a backyard shed by her captor. But still, she manages to raise Jack to read, write, count, and very much understand his world. Until the day she tells him about Outside being real, and that the world is very big place, and they need to escape into it.

“Kids say the darnedest things.” Um yeah, especially when their whole world expanded by millions of square feet and by billions of people. There were times when I wanted Jack to really understand that it was better in Outside, and that Room was a bad place. And you can feel Ma’s frustration as she tries to explain this to Jack, and move back into the world and find her place again. She was a bright college student when abducted, and seven years later, battles depression, over-stimulation, and a different type of motherhood. Not to mention, her family thought she was dead. That’s rough.

I guess Donoghue gets the desired effect by using Jack’s voice because I felt, as a reader, stunted by his capabilities in language. I wanted Jack to get it, but he didn’t always, and most five-year olds wouldn’t. But it’s fun because he questions the use of our everyday language, and all those phrases we hardly ever think about, he demands explanation and points out how dumb certain phrases are. In that, it’s cute and charming.

This book also brought up a lot of questions of child development, psychological conditioning, and re-entry into the world. I thought a lot about the cases that have become famous in the media like Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart. And it’s a scary thought that there are people who have to go through these experiences and are somehow able to come back and live life again.

It’s not easy, and Jack definitely pointed that out to me as a reader. I would give Room a 7 for its plot and subject matter in spite of its limitations in language.


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