I’ve been reading some fucked up books about kids lately. First there was Kevin, a mass murderer trapped in a teenager’s body, whose dubious childhood raised the question (or rather, made the assertion) that some people are just born off.
And now I’ve spent a week with Jack, the five-year-old protagonist of Emma Donoghue’s Room, whose entire universe consists of an eleven-by-eleven-foot soundproofed shed. Which brings up an entirely different question: If Kevin, raised with everything, can grow up to be a shit, can Jack, raised with nearly nothing, grow up to be normal?
I should clarify: Jack and his mother don’t live in a shed by choice. Rather, said mother (who remains nameless throughout the novel) was kidnapped some seven years before Room takes place, by a man who has over the years raped her repeatedly, resulting in one stillborn child and another—Jack. The novel is told from Jack’s perspective, as a disarmingly content child who sees nothing necessarily strange about his living situation, or his mother’s assertion that what’s inside the room is real, whereas everything on television—which she only lets him watch in short bursts—is fantasy. Jack is accustomed to routine, attached to rules and feels only occasionally stifled by his limited environment. In fact, until Jack’s mother latches onto the idea of staging an escape, the duo exist in something sickly akin to normalcy inside their furnished prison cell. Continue reading “Spacious Studio, Doorman Building”