SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.
Author: Emma Donoghue
Page Count: 321
Genre: Literary fiction, Psychological fiction
Tone: Suspenseful, Haunting, Moving
1. Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, called Room “a book to read in one sitting. When it’s over,” she said, “you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lasts for days.” Is this how you experienced the book? Do you agree or disagree? How so?
2. What do you think of the author’s choice to use five-year-old Jack as the narrator of this story? What qualities does he lend to the story that an older narrator might not have?
3. What about Jack shows him to be a typical five-year-old boy? What makes him unlike others his age? Is he/his voice convincing?
4. How did you react to Jack’s difficulty distinguishing between what’s real (in Room) and what’s on the television? Did you find his changes in perception and understanding feel authentic to you?
5. Donoghue creates a unique world for Jack—and by extension, for us, the readers. What details of her setting most impressed you? Was she successful in her creation of this unique world? Could you really see Room in your mind as the story progressed, or would including diagrams in the book have helped?
6. Ma is shown only through the eyes of young Jack. Is she mysterious as a character? Are there things you wish you knew about her?
7. Are there any examples of Ma’s resourcefulness that especially stood out for you? What can we learn about her from seeing how she raises her son?
8. What does the focus on Ma’s teeth and Jack’s dental routine reveal?
9. Donoghue deliberately keeps the kidnapper—or the villain—out of the spotlight. How would this story be different if he’d been more present in these pages, if we’d been privy to his thoughts, his motivations, or even his name? Why do you think she chooses not to focus on Old Nick? Did you want to know more about him?
10. Many people—including the author herself—view Room as a book with two halves, the climax taking place hallway through. Do you see it this way? Did you prefer one half over the other?
11. Did the author build suspense well leading up to the climax? Did you think Ma’s plans would work?
12. How would you characterize the doctors’ and nurses’ treatment of Ma and Jack? Was the care what you’d expect?
13. Often stories focus on the captivity of women and children and not on the pain of their re-entry into the outside world. What were some of Ma’s and Jack’s biggest struggles, and how did they work against each other?
14. How was Jack shaped by his ordeal? Did any of his struggles to adjust to Outside surprise you?
15. Did Ma’s behavior Outside make you think differently about her character?
16. How does Ma’s family react to Ma and Jack? How do strangers react to the mother and son?
17. The chapters on re-entry turn into something of a commentary on life itself, exploring what is necessary, important, strange, etc. What examples stood out the most for you?
18. Was the choice to have Ma and Jack return to Room a surprising one? Was this an effective closing scene? Did you want or expect something different?
19. Are this story and its characters relatable? Donoghue said she thinks a tragic story like this can illuminate the human condition, that Ma and Jack’s story might be everybody’s story. What do you think she means? Do you agree with her?
20. Both motherhood and childhood, the author has said, can sometimes feel like a locked room. How is this reflected in the novel?
21. Is this a book where you are left wanting to know what happens to the characters in the future? Why or why not?
22. Room deals with some difficult and disturbing topics. Why would anyone want to read it? Is the novel sensationalistic in its portrayal of these characters’ lives? Why has it been so popular?
Official book site, features Room diagrams and Ma and Jack’s library
Author site, includes reviews and interviews
NPR (audio) interview with the author
New Yorker interview with the author
If you liked Room, try…
The Bear by Claire Cameron
Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley
A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard