I honestly am at a loss for words to describe this book.
Jack is five years old and he lives in Room with his Ma. Room is a small garden shed where they are being held captive by a man who Jack calls Old Nick (because he comes to Room at night just like Old Saint Nick aka Santa Claus). Ma has been in Room for seven years and attempts to give Jack a routine and some semblance of a normal childhood, but as this is the only life Jack has ever known, he seems to be quite a happy child. His relationship to Outside is through the television, where he visits with friends such as Dora the Explorer, and he doesn’t “want” for anything he sees since he doesn’t not believe any of it is real.
Then they are rescued (in what is probably now one of my favorite scenes ever) and Ma must readjust to life Outside and Jack must learn about it, without the comforts of Room. It’s unbelievable to read about everything that was necessary — masks to protect them (especially Jack) from germs they’ve not been exposed to, and special sunglasses to protect their eyes from the direct sunlight when truly outside are just two examples. What was truly striking to me was the conflict between Ma’s desire to get back her life and her desire to protect Jack, whose exposure to all of these new stimuli was overwhelming and frightening.
I was a bit leery about reading a novel with such traumatic subject matter, but Room is so well written that even though there were some difficult passages to read (not violent, just heartbreaking) I found it difficult to put the book down.