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.