Tag Archives: Room

Room: Book vs. Movie

download (25)I haven’t done a book vs. movie post in a while, even though I have seen movies in the last few years that were based on books I’ve read (like Gone Girl). But I was inspired to write this post after seeing the movie adaptation of Room by Emma Donoghue, a book I read in 2010. Both are excellent.

Both the movie and the book versions of Room deal with a very painful and difficult subject: the imprisonment of a young woman and later, her son, in a small garden shed for 7 years by a sadistic man who kidnapped her off the street when she was 17. Ma, as she is known in both versions, has worked to create a stimulating and nurturing world for her son Jack, while protecting him from witnessing the nightly visits from her captor. The space they live in is tiny and claustrophobia-inducing, but she manages to get through the years with toys made from recycled trash, five books, a TV and her son’s imagination.

Shortly after the book and movie open, Ma decides it is time to make an extremely risky move to try to save herself and Jack. The escape from the shed is extremely harrowing, both in print and on screen (I actually had to watch it sped up even though I knew what was going to happen). Its immediate aftermath is also extremely intense.

The second half of both book and movie are about their lives in the world after they are out of the shed. It isn’t as stressful as the first half, but it’s just as intense emotionally, as Ma (named Joy in the movie) tries to reconnect with her parents and suffers a breakdown after a few weeks at home. Watching Jack try to deal with new relationships, an entirely new physical existence and his mother’s moods, is difficult. But both book and movie end on a hopeful note as you see each of them trying to move past what happened.

Emma Donoghue wrote the book and also adapted it for the screen. The book is told from Jack’s perspective, while the movie shifts more broadly to cover Joy’s worldview too. The book is more quirky (it’s told from the mind of a 5 year-old), and, like most movie adaptations, there are a lot of details in the book that are left out in the movie. I think Ma in the book is a little harsher than Joy in the movie, though Joy in the movie is hardly sunny.

Ultimately, I can’t say that one is better than the other. The visual impact of actually seeing the shed, aka Room, and watching the escape, made watching the movie a very intense experience for me. I was crying pretty much through the entire first half of the movie and some parts of the second. It’s one thing to try to imagine the hell Ma lived through, and it’s another to see it. The acting is fantastic – Brie Larson did a great job as Ma, and Jacob Tremblay was perfect as Jack. He remained true to character the whole time, never cloying or overacting. He beautifully conveyed bewilderment, fear, anger, affection – all of the emotions a boy in his situation would have experienced. And Jack’s relationship with his mother was beautiful. Not perfect, but beautiful.

I know there are people who avoided reading Room given the subject matter, and I am sure there are many people who won’t see the movie for the same reason. I won’t try to talk them out of it because I found both to be difficult. But they were so worth it. It’s a story I won’t ever forget.

Advantage: Both.


ROOM by Emma Donoghue

I know that I tend to read depressing books, but I seem to be on an especially depressing tear of late. The last few books I have read have been about the following: a woman dying a terrible death from cancer, a girl who disappeared, conjoined girl twins who die, a hermaphrodite, another girl who disappears, a young mother whose baby dies of SIDS, and a woman who so desires to be the librarian of her own night bookmobile that she gives her life to do so. Jeez.

Room, by Emma Donoghue, may take the cake, though. It is about a woman who was abducted at age 19 and confined to a 12×12 shed for 7 years, along with the son she gave birth to in captivity. Definitely a depressing, ripped-from-the-headlines premise. But I am so glad I read Room – it's an excellent book.

Ma (whose name we never learn), spends the first five years of her son Jack's life protecting him from knowing about the circumstances in which they live. The first third or so of Room explores the lengths Ma goes to to create a joyful, stimulating, and comforting life in their prison of a home. Jack, who narrates the book, takes the reader through typical days in Room, which include running laps on Rug, feeding Plant, creating toys out of recycled trash, looking through Skylight, reading one of his five books, and sleeping in Wardrobe. Ma has given in to her captor's nightly visits with the resignation and veneer of a Stepford wife, as she explains after their escape, in exchange for his promise that he will never set eyes on her son (she is careful never to acknowledge him as a parent).

Jack is precocious and smart, but he  is also a boy who has never set foot on the earth or spoken to a single human being other than his mother. Once he and Ma make it Outside, his world becomes overwhelmingly confusing, with sensory overload and a literal collapse of his worldview. Donoghue's exploration of how Jack and Ma re-enter (well, "enter" is more appropriate for Jack) society, and how they are received by an intrusively curious American public, is riveting.

Room-by-Emma-Donoghue Room is an exhilarating, captivating and moving book, and reflects Donoghue's immense creativity and her compassion for her two main characters. Sometimes I was frustrated by Ma's seeming insensitivity to Jack's many, many questions and fears upon leaving Room, but I think that insensitivity is probably realistic. Ma is human, after all, and has the right to care for herself and her own needs after so many years of protecting and servicing (literally) others.

I don't want to say much more, for doing so might deny others the full impact of reading Room. I know, the topic is off-putting. But Room is so much more than a sensational plot. It is a psychological thriller, and a tender story of a mother's love, and a commentary on our modern lives, all rolled into one.

I totally agreed with Ron Charles's review of Room in The Washington Post, if you'd like to hear someone else gushing over this book. Or just scan the Amazon comments – wow.

Why, hello there, FTC! Oh, this old book? I got an ARC of Room last May at BEA. Can't believe I didn't read it until now.

My BEA Piles

Here are the books I got at BEA this year. I definitely tried to be selective, so the pile isn't that big. But there are some in here that I am really looking forward to reading.

I already mentioned Room by Emma Donoghue.

Another book that got a lot of buzz at BEA was West of Here, which I got signed by Jonathan Evison. (It wasn't until RIGHT NOW that I realized that he also wrote All About Lulu, which I reviewed here). I can't believe I didn't put that together until now.

I am excited to read The Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives by Josie Brown. Can't tell if it's fluff or not.

Picked up new books from Michael Cunningham (By Nightfall) and Michael Chabon (Manhood for Amateurs).

Taroko Gorge by Jacob Ritari, from Unbridled Books, has gotten some great reviews.

Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt looks good, if gloomy.

And here are the books I brought back for my kids:


We've been working on the doodle books by Deborah Zemke, and the girls are excited to start the Clementine book. Ethan Zohn, of Survivor fame, signed the Soccer World South Africa book. Memoirs of a Goldfish looks adorable, and I am looking forward to delving into the Art with Anything: 52 Weeks of Fun With Everyday Stuff book.

So that's what I got!

BEA and Book Blogger Con – RECAP

Whew. I am on the train from NY, heading home after Book Expo America (BEA) and the Book Blogger Convention. It was really fun to be around so many other book bloggers this week. For me, book blogging is a pretty solitary experience. While I do interact with readers and other bloggers through Twitter and comments, the blogging itself is something I do solo, with little immediate feedback or sense of camaraderie. Maybe that's why I enjoy Nicole's That's How I Blog series so much – it's one of the few times when I get to interact, albeit one-way, with other book bloggers.

So meeting so many book bloggers in person, in real life, was really a treat. I saw some people I've met before, and met a bunch of new ones, and walked away with a big stack of business cards and new sites to check out. I also picked up some great blogging tips, and heard some thoughtful perspectives on some of the questions I often grapple with as a blogger – what do you do when you have established a personal relationship with an author and then you don't like her book? …how important ARE stats, anyway? …do you really need to be on Twitter AND Goodreads AND Facebook? …is it unethical not to disclose your Amazon Associate affiliation? It was also fun to be on the Marketing and Branding Panel today – I learned a lot from my fellow panelists Ann (Books on the Nightstand), Thea (The Book Smugglers), Heather (Age 30+… A Lifetime of Books) and Yen (The Book Publicity Blog).

And that was just the Book Blogger Convention! Thanks so much to Trish from Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin'?, Pam from MotherReader, Natasha from Maw Books, Rebecca from The Book Lady's Blog, Michelle from GalleySmith, Amy from My Friend Amy, and Nicole from Linus's Blanket for all of their hard work in setting up BBC 2010. I can't wait until next year!

BEA itself was also a great experience. I mostly just walked the aisles, checking out both established and independent publishers. I picked up a bunch of books. (A 30 pound box is on its way to DC via UPS.) I heard a few authors, met a few others, and mostly just immersed myself the love of books percolating through the Javits Center. Of the books I picked up, I am probably most excited about Room, by Emma Donoghue, a book due out in September about a 5 year-old boy born to a kidnapped mother, who has lived with her in one room his whole life. I am also excited about the I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook I found in the booth of Ulysses, an independent publisher who has promised to send it to me. My favorite booth: Algonquin, by far – I love the titles on their shelves and they were very open and generous with bloggers at BEA, at least in my experience.

I will write more about the books I got as I start wading through the box.

Thanks again to the Book Blogger Convention organizers and to all of the great bloggers I met this week!