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Room takes places place in a room (called Room), where its 5-year-old narrator, Jack, has lived his entire life with his mother (referred to only as Ma). Actually, Room is a shed, which a man named Old Nick built as a prison for Ma when he kidnapped her seven years earlier. Despite the obvious pitfalls of this situation (no contact with the “Outside” world; rotting teeth; regular canned-bean dinners), Ma has created for Jack as normal an existence as imaginable. Under Jack’s gaze, the objects in Room become personified companions, gifted and flawed like the friends he might have made under better circumstances. Clothes Horse, for example, “always grumbles and says there’s no room but there’s plenty if he stands up really straight.” Zigzag Knife and Meltedy Spoon enliven dinner time, and Eggsnake (dozens of eggshells strung together) and Fort (made of cans and vitamin bottles) provide entertainment, at least when they’re not “hiding” under Bed. Narrating an entire novel from the perspective of a 5-year-old is an ambitious aim for any writer, but with an almost uncanny adherence to the child’s-eye perspective and a graceful handling of the darker facets of her story, Emma Donoghue transfigures this horrific situation into a memorable seventh novel—one that fully merits its recent nomination to the Man/Booker shortlist. Through Jack’s perspective, Donoghue evokes moments of comedy alongside insights into the darker facets of the world that Jack cannot fully understand. When Old Nick comes into Room at night to have his way with Ma, Jack counts the number of times the bed creaks before Old Nick leaves; Jack tells Ma the next morning, “You’re dirty on your neck.” Over time, though, Jack’s narrative voice begins to feel worn out, as Donoghue uses the boy’s innocence to achieve cheap satire about how silly the Outside can be. Near the end of the novel, Jack observes, “The little cards with numbers all over are called a lottery, idiots buy them hoping to get magicked into millionaires”; in such passages, Jack’s voice begins to sound like a gimmick. Throughout her career, Donoghue has distinguished herself by portraying lesbian life in her native Ireland (where homosexuality was technically illegal until 1993—the elegiac novel Hood is her finest achievement of this kind) and transforming obscure historical occurrences into fiction (the best-selling Slammerkin reimagines the circumstances surrounding a 1763 murder). For those planning to wager money on the Booker Prize, British bookmakers such as Ladbrokes insinuate that Room is a decent bet. For those unfamiliar with Donoghue’s oeuvre, Room is a solid access point into a body of work for which such recognition is long overdue.