To young Jack, Room is a place of imagination and safety. It is where he and Ma have been forever, and all his friends, Bed, Snake, Car and more live. Room, and all within the cork tiled walls, is real. Everything else is just television.
We think you’ll find Room both a delight and a challenge. Emma Donoghue’s clever narration has won the hearts of readers worldwide as a bestselling novel. Jack’s wonder and playfulness dilutes the confinement, and yet Donoghue does not shy away from realities of a life entrapped. Through her story of a mother and son, we are given a glimpse into the torturous conditions of life in solitary confinement, and the destruction it can wreck upon those within a tiny cell.
Questions from this months guest speaker, Corey Redekop
Why is Room narrated by Jack rather than Ma? Would Ma have made for a better narrator? How would the story have differed?
Was Ma’s choice in how to raise Jack “correct”? Would another method have been more effective?
Jack and Ma’s escape should be a happy occasion, yet the world beyond Room is, in many ways, a prison of its own. In what ways does the outside world mirror that of Room?
Room deals with despicable acts, yet readers flocked to it. Why do stories of confinement hold such a fascination to readers, of both fiction and non-fiction?
After the escape, Ma finds herself unwillingly placed into another role, that of the “media-ready” traumatised victim. Was this a fair representation of the media’s reaction to stories such as this? What does it say about us that we categorise people in such a fashion?
Jack’s understanding of the world is severely stunted. After reading Room, did you look at the world differently?
Room ends on an uncertain yet hopeful moment. Was this, in your opinion, realistic? Why or why not? How else could the story have ended?
What do you think happens to Jack and Ma after the story closes? Should we even want to know? What does our wanting to know say about us?
Further Discussion Questions from Amnesty International
Did you enjoy the novel? What did you find most engaging and most challenging about this book?
Solitary confinement is used throughout the world (see our discussion section), including within Canada. Why is it acceptable punishment within prisons, but considered a form of torment within the novel? Do prisoners in solitary confinement deserve the same compassion that Ma and Jack’s story attracts? Why or why not?
Jack is changed after his mother explains that Room is a prison, and she was once free. Can realizing the suffering of others change who we are, and how we see our own world?
The television interview that Ma gives is a disaster. If you were the reporter, what would you ask her?
With difficult news coming to us every day in the media from around the world, Jack’s grandmother’s book club conversation is easily relatable: “Such horrors, in the news every day, sometimes I feel like staying in bed with the drapes closed.” How do you push back against the horrors and bad news of the day? Where do you find your hopes and ambitions to continue onwards?