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A 'Room' of My Own

Rejecting the seductive hype of the "major best seller!" for a chance to read a great book.

Do you remember the last time you encountered a book so good that you simply could not put it down? A book so engrossing, that you forewent sleep, food, email, and Facebook to continue reading it?

Well, such a book fell into my hands and it has yet to fall out.  It’s called Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue.

Perhaps you’ve heard of it. I’d heard of it. The New York Times Book Review had selected it to receive the coveted Best Book of the Year Award for 2010. I was among the throngs of people who requested it from the Belmont Public Library. 

Unfortunately, there were about 340 “holds” on it, so I resigned myself to reading it sometime next winter.

Then a friend’s daughter handed it to me. She had just finished reading it. I asked her if it lived up to the hype. "It’s good," she said, "it’s very good." But disturbing too, she added.

I was about half way through a novel by Ian McEwan called Enduring Love. Not practiced in the joys of delayed gratification, I toyed with the idea of abandoning Enduring Love and starting Room immediately. I decided to finish Enduring Love; it is also a well-crafted story that drew me in from the beginning pages.

Then last night, I kicked my feet up after a busy weekend and, at long last, began to read Room. I was instantly drawn in to this discomfiting world. It is amazingly and tenderly rendered by Jack, the five-year-old narrator.

I read for a long while. Finally the demands of Morpheus overtook me and I reluctantly closed the book and caught some sleep. When I awoke, it was not coffee I craved, but Jack’s voice. I continued to read it all morning, while ignoring life around me, including an impressive mountain of laundry, my Patch deadline (sorry, editor), and my children.

Well, it’s done. I can now return to reality, i.e., resume my chores, attend to my 'To Do' list, feed the children, check email.

I won’t say much about Room. People with whom I’ve been in book groups over the years have implied that my standards are too high; or, said differently, that I am way too critical. I tend to want too much out of a book, if by “too much” one means that the book is well written, that the characters are well thought out, that the plot is well reasoned and meaningful. 

In fact, I’ve sometimes offended those who excitedly arrive at book group praising books that I thought were only mediocre. Some examples include The Red Tent, Sarah’s Key, The Kite Runner, The Help. Book groups across Belmont and across the country raved about these books. Me, not so much. (I’ve probably just irritated you because you loved Sarah’s Key and The Help. Well, you’ll be thrilled to know both books sold millions of copies and have been made into Major Motion Pictures®.)

Clearly, I am not much of a book critic and I don’t have my finger on the pulse of what America is buying and reading. But I loved almost everything about Room and would excitedly explore this powerful, moving, and memorable novel at any book group that will still have me as a member.

Susan Danseyar August 03, 2011 at 12:58 AM
I'm on your beam insofar as looking dumbfounded when members of my Book Group have gushed over the exact books you mentioned (plus a few other best sellers that left me cold). In fact, i was about to quit my group until we just read "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by a journalist named Rebecca Skloot. Have you read it? If not, I will lend you my copy.
Lisa Gibalerio August 03, 2011 at 01:43 AM
Yes, I really enjoyed that book! (It meandered in places, but was fascinating). We should compare book lists someday.

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