Art and life

Mea culpa, friends. I missed my usual blog post last week (long, boring story: sick children, sick parents, no babysitter). This week, I was planning to write about some of my recent reading, and then the Amanda Berry story broke. I’ve been debating all morning about whether to go ahead with my post because the subject matter is so grotesquely timely, but I think I will.

Last week, I picked up a second-hand copy of Room, by Emma Donoghue. It was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2010.

I had planned to read it some time ago, but other books intervened. This time, I opened the first page and fell right into its clutches. If you’re not familiar with the book, its narrator is a five-year-old boy named Jack who lives, with his mother, in captivity in the place he knows as Room. I couldn’t believe what effective use Donoghue makes of Jack’s voice, his limited and incredibly clear-eyed comprehension of the world. It was beautiful and terrifying and utterly compelling. And then I read the news about Amanda Berry’s recent escape.

I don’t want to capitalize on someone else’s tragedy. But I will say this: at one point, after Jack and his mother are free, a smirky journalist asks them, “So after your rescue…” And Jack’s mother corrects her: “Escape.” Jack’s mother is braver, smarter, and tougher than one can easily imagine, and that’s because she has to be, in order to live. The only other point I want to make is that Room works because it’s the least exploitative telling imaginable of a story that shrieks horror and taboo. It’s about Jack and his mother, their bond, and how they negotiate their worlds.

I’ll talk about other books another day, I think. For now, I just want to remind myself that it’s possible to think about Amanda Berry, Gina deJesus, and Michelle Knight outside the news cycle: without prying questions, without salacious speculation, and with hope for their future. They are more courageous than we can know.


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4 Responses to “Art and life”

  1. MelodyJ says:

    Someone told me the Room was a good book but I don’t want to read anything depressing.
    These are very strong women to endure what they did. I keep thinking about how that person fooled the whole community.

    I think I know how. The image he projected was so well constructed that anything that contradicted it seemed that noteworthy. The red flags could easily be explained away as just joking or the person is having a bad day because a person this nice couldn’t really mean it. A few years ago I came in contact with someone who seems so nice. Seemed like someone who was just fun loving and didn’t mean any harm when he said and did things that made me uncomfortable. Those things seems so small and insignificant anyway. But over time this person behavior became less and less like the nice guy he presented himself to be. I caught him staring at my breast wide eyed. Then I realized this fool has been trying to trap me. Once he thought I liked and trusted him he let the real him come out because he thought I was so taken in by the good guy image. I think this how how that community got fooled.

    I’m so glad these women and child are free. I really hope they can heal from this.

  2. Ying says:

    Melody, the interesting thing about Room is that it’s frightening, suspenseful, and tragic in parts, but it’s not a depressing book overall. It’s about Jack and his mother and how they survive, and for that reason I found it beautiful and powerful. I think your anecdote about the “nice guy” is very revealing. After all, calling someone manipulative (or a sexual predator, or a sociopath) is a large and daunting accusation, so we offer them the benefit of the doubt until we’re very certain – at which point they have already done some damage. And yes, the passive-aggressive, “It’s just a joke! Where’s your sense of humour?” is one of the most effective manipulations we see.

  3. Nikki says:

    What I liked about ROOM was the different perspective it provided for the reader, especially when all is seen through Jack’s eyes and his difficulty in understanding the world outside of the room that he had been born in. A timely reminder. :)

  4. Ying says:

    Nikki, hello, and so good to hear from you! :D Yes, I completely agree. Jack’s descriptions of things like grass and leaves are amazing, and he offers a powerful critique of our cultural habits, too.

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