Study Guide

Room

By Emma Donoghue

Room Introduction

We remember our childhood room: all the toys and stuffed animals, the swings, the rocking chair, the baby grand piano being played by a dog in a diaper… oh wait, that was the nursery from Muppet Babies. Hmm. Still, our childhood room was a nice safe place, a place where we could play, sleep, and zone out in front of the television watching awesome cartoons.

In Room, Jack's Room is similar. He plays. He sleeps. He watches Dora the Explorer. And he helps his Ma, who lives there with him, scream for help every day because his room is actually a soundproof shed in a backyard of a man who kidnapped Jack's Ma seven years ago and has kept them there ever since.

Yikes. Can we have Baby Miss Piggy back now?

This is the kind of ripped-from-the-headlines plot that gets an author noticed, but Emma Donoghue took her book a step further by making five-year-old Jack the narrator of Room. This gripping story and unique narrator put Donoghue on the world's literary radar when Room was published in 2010, and the book earned her rooms full of award nominations and accolades. The book was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and long-listed for the Orange prize.

The novel's eerie similarity to current events keeps it on the bestseller lists. In 2011, Jaycee Lee Dugard, who had been missing for eighteen years, was found. And in 2013, three women were found in the basement of Cleveland man Ariel Castro. We'll never look at a backyard shed or basement entrance the same way again.

Room has been optioned for a major motion picture. That's not surprising, given how it was on pretty much every 2010 Best Book of the Year list. We're not sure how the unique narrative perspective will translate to the screen, but we can't wait to find out.

So, yeah. Room. It's not even that nice a place to visit (it's very small), and we sure as heck wouldn't want to live there. But Jack and his Ma are pretty awesome. Unlike Baby Miss Piggy, Ma can't just close her eyes and make believe and be anywhere. She's stuck in Room—but at least she has Jack by her side. Join them (if you can bear it) and see what happens.

What is Room About and Why Should I Care?

It can be hard to be read the news, even on a good day.

The future of healthcare may or may not be a disaster. Drones are either going to kill you or drop a Nora Roberts trilogy on your head. And the NSA is monitoring what your Dark Elf is up to in Pandaria.

And those are the good days. On the bad days, we're reminded about how people can be kidnapped and held captive for years. Even decades. In 2011, Jaycee Dugard published a book about her 18-year captivity. Three women were found in a Cleveland basement in 2013, the same year that Elizabeth Smart published a book about her 9-month-long kidnapping terror.

Yeesh. It's more messed up than a Stephenie Meyer book out there.

It's enough to make you never want to leave your room. (Except for that fact that these women have no choice but to stay in a room against their will.) In Room, Ma and Jack are like the captives you see on the news. But somehow, they manage to find love and support in each other and kind of turn their Room into a home, at least temporarily. Ma doesn't see her time in Room as a tragedy. She grows to see it as a blessing. Room shows us that even in tragedy, there is hope.

Room Resources

WEBSITES

A Room of Her Own
Emma Donoghue's website is a virtual playground of information about Room and all her other novels past, present, and future. It also has an extensive biography and lots of pictures of Emma and her groovy red hair.

Hachette Book Group
What? We're not enough for you? Fine. The publisher's website has a reading group guide, videos, audio clips, and more. (Ours are better, though.)

MOVIE OR TV PRODUCTIONS

Screening Room
Yes, Room is going to be a movie. Your guess is as good as ours as to how this is going to work. As of September 2009, the script was done, but the film was yet to be cast. Who's your dream cast?

ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS

Chatting with the Room
Emma Donoghue speaks to an eager book club about Room. This book club seems to have actually read the book.

The Skill of the Irish
Emma Donoghue's career isn't dependent solely on the luck o' the Irish. She's been writing since she was nineteen. Here she talks about Room with the website Irish Central.

VIDEO

As Seen on TV
This clip of the TV Book Club has great British accents, blurry-lenses recreation of short scenes of the novel à la true crime shows, and some interesting opinions about the actual book.

Kids Playing Kids
We're not sure if this student video accurately captures the tone of Room (although Old Nick's farmer's tan is a nice touch), but it's a nice visual recap of the plot of the novel.

AUDIO

Considering Room
NPR's Melissa Block calls Jack one of the most captivating narrators she's met (and she reads a lot). We enjoyed our time with him too. Listen to how Emma Donoghue created him in this interview on All Things Considered.

Echoes in the Room
The voice actress who narrates the audiobook was in her 30s when she read Jack. Having an actual five-year-old read the audiobook would probably violate some child labor law.

IMAGES

Floorplan in Colored Pencil
Here's one artist's rendition of what Room looks like—or at least how Jack would draw Room. Where the heck is Wardrobe?

Building Blocks
The U.K. cover of Room crafts Room from a pair of building blocks. It almost looks cozy. Almost.