by Emma Donoghue
(2011 Alex Award Winner)
Five-year-old Jack was born and has spent his entire short life in a single 11 x11 room. His only companion is his Ma, who was abducted 7 years ago by "Old Nick." Ma has tried to make a life for Jack under these terrible circumstances. She makes up games, teaches Jack how to read and tries to make sure he is safe, healthy and has enough to eat. Not easy tasks since "Old Nick," their only connection to the outside world other than the television, is unreliable and unfortunately getting more unstable. Ma is desperate and makes a plan that will change their lives forever.
Told entirely from the perspective of Jack, this novel is a fascinating look at a mother and child living under extraordinary circumstances. Jack is a bit precocious and it takes a little while to get used to his style of speaking -"I flat the chairs and put them beside Door against Clothes Horse."-but one gets drawn into his little world and the unique relationship between mother and son. I found myself holding my breath to find out what would happen to them. The first part of the book is the most absorbing. Although not much happens, Donoghue carefully crafts the the characters of Jack and Ma and the world in which they live. I can't say much about the second half without giving away too much, but it remains interesting. Overall this was a thought provoking novel that would make for for a good book discussion.