Room by Emma Donahue was recommended to me by my daughter, an avid reader and administrator on a Nook e-readers site, and by a fellow writer on an e-mail list I subscribe too. The writer recommended it as a powerful child protagonist voice. My daughter just said it was a good book. She started to say, ‘I really enjoyed it,’ and then decided ‘enjoy’ was definitely not the right word. “It’s disturbing,” she told me.
Disturbing, it is, especially when Ma sounds a lot like my other daughter and Jack loves the same TV shows as my oldest grandchild. The premise comes right out of this morning’s news. A nineteen-year-old college student was abducted by a sexual predator and has been kept a prisoner in his back yard for the past seven years. Jack was born in Room and has never known anything else. Now that he has turned five, his mother begins to try to explain ‘outside’, which he first imagines as outer space from TV with things floating beyond the skylight of Room.
The writing is brilliant. The desperation of their situation when ‘Old Nick’ turns off the power is all the more horrifying seen through the exuberant eyes of a five-year-old who has no comprehension of the significance of what he tells us.
I have been listening to the audio book in the car. (Highly recommended for it’s incredible child actor’s voice.) Today I stopped at what I thought was an art gallery. It turned out to be a gift shop. I found myself nauseated by the incredible waste and useless stuff. I realized I was seeing it all through the eyes of a half-starved child who whose mother has to carefully weigh the merits of requesting headache tablets or new jeans for ‘Sunday treat’ from her abuser.
When I got home, I opened my e-mail to a newsletter from missionary friends in a rural part of Africa. Their home-schooled son is going off to college in September—in New York City.
Suddenly, I panicked. How will he cope? This boy is no doubt brilliant. (Both his parents are.) He has been back and forth to the U.S. many times. He has probably seen more of the world than most of his future classmates, but the parts he knows best are very different from the parts familiar to them. How will he interpret what goes on around him? How will he discern who will be a healthy friend from the ones who would drag him down and destroy his life? Moving to New York will be like emerging from the isolation of Room. With my mind lost in Jack’s world, I find myself wondering how ANY Third Culture Kid survives the transition intact.
Jack and his mother thank Baby Jesus in the picture on the wall for their food. I guess I have to trust Baby Jesus for all the TCKs out there. Come to think of it, Jesus faced a pretty major cultural transition himself when he came here from heaven.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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