Don't think, even for one minute, that a book written from the perspective of a 5-year-old boy won't be riveting.
Emma Donoghue's "Room" captures readers with a story that is so disturbing — and yet so compelling — it's difficult to put the book down.
The narrator, Jack, exists as a testament to his mother's fortitude. And he exists because of their circumstances.
His mother was abducted as a 19-year-old college student and has lived the past seven years in a one-room, soundproof shed in her abductor's backyard.
Jack is the result of her abductor's near-daily rapes, but never has a child been more treasured by his mother.
We never learn her name — she is just "Ma" to Jack — but we learn that she has made their imprisonment as full a life as possible for her son. She makes games out of flipping the mattress, reading their few books and trying to get exercise in their 11-by-11 home.
Because of the limits they endure, Ma has told Jack from an early age that everything on TV is pretend. He knows nothing of the outdoors, cars, dogs or other people.
Except for their abductor, "Old Nick," to Jack, who comes into the room most nights when Jack is hidden away in Wardrobe (their furniture equivalent of a closet). Abandon any thought of Ma and Jack overpowering him to escape; he enters and leaves by a door controlled by a keypad and code.
Jack says: "I've seen Old Nick through the slats some nights but never all of him up close. His hair has some white and it's smaller than his ears. Maybe his eyes would turn me to stone."
In "Room," which is short-listed for this year's Man Booker prize, Donoghue creates two compelling characters who endure circumstances we cannot imagine. Ma finally realizes she has to tell Jack the truth about the outside world if they ever want to escape their prison.
This may be some of the most compelling writing in the entire book, as Jack struggles with his lifelong perceptions vs. the stories his beloved mother starts to tell him.
Of course, readers will make some comparisons to horrific real-life stories of abductions.
But read this book with an open mind and an open heart, because it will grab you and leave you thinking about it long after the last page is turned.
"Room" by Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown, 321 pages, $24.99)