I usually try to do a really well-known book with a slightly-less-well-known one. I hope people have heard about Room. It’s another best-seller (I think) and is told entirely from the point of view of the five-year-old narrator, Jack. Written in 2010 by Emma Donoghue, Room is both incredibly interesting and curiously sad.
The five-year-old narrator? He was conceived, birthed, and grew to the age of five in a tiny room. His mother, who he called ‘Ma’ was
kidnapped off her college campus at nineteen by a man known as ‘Old Nick’ to our Jack. Old Nick only comes at night, to bring food and go to bed with Ma after Jack is asleep in Wardrobe.
It’s the child-voice of Jack that draws you in to this book. As playful and happy as any five-year-old, Jack only knows the few feet of space he’s been exposed to. Though there is a television in Room (Dora the Explorer is Jack’s ‘best friend’) Jack believes everything he sees on it to be made-up, as if their room is the entire world.
Like Room, Jacquelyn Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean is about a kidnapping, but this time it’s a three-year-old boy who is snatched from his mother.
Kidnappings and Other Buzz Words
The Deep End of the Ocean has the distinction of being the first book ever picked for Oprah’s Book Club (giving you an idea of what kind of book it is.) The whole book is centered, not around the kidnapped child Ben Cappadora but his mother, Beth, and the rest of the Cappadora family. There’s grand theft auto, and affairs, and divorces. There’s a gay best friend and Italian restaurants and therapists What’s not to like?
The story begins at Beth’s high school reunion, where Ben is kidnapped from a hotel filled with people Beth’s known her entire life. Not kidnapped was seven-year-old Vincent, who was holding his brother’s hand, and baby Kerry, too little to be put down by herself. Vincent’s scars end up being nearly as severe as Beth’s as the disappearance drags on for hours, days, weeks. Years.
It is literally a case of vanishing without a trace. The story delves into the gradual dissipation of the search team, talks about how new cases piled up in the police departments, and the Cappadoras were left to figure out life for themselves. Beth never really gets the hang of life again. She ignores her remaining kids, ignores her husband, quits her job, tries to forget…
(it’s hard to balance giving enough information to make the book intriguing but not giving too much away. it’s a hard forumla, and my friend always hits me, because we watch Buffy together and she’s seeing it for the first time and i keep giving away plot points, so apparently it’s something i’m bad at. i think i’ll stop there.)
One last thing: unlike Room, which is narrated by Jack throughout, the narration of Deep End of the Ocean skips from Beth to her husband to Vincent to other major and minor characters, all in close third person narration. I personally like that sort of thing, but it may not be your cup of tea.
The Other Things That Come To Light
There’s a sequel to The Deep End of the Ocean which was published ten years later, in 2009, called No Time To Wave Goodbye. I personally love it when books have sequels because then you know that when you close the book for the last time, there’s another one to pick up right after it.
(personal favorite story about a book series: i’ve been reading Eragon since i was in middle school. when the last book came out last year, i re-read the whole series in preperation, ending with the new book, then went back and re-read the whole series again. i guess that’s why it’s called the Inheritance Cycle)
These books are made for very specific people. Women, mostly, though I never really understood the difference between a “guy’s” book and a “girl’s” book. But if Oprah recommended it, I’m going out on a limb and saying that if you like Oprah you’ll like this book. These books. Both are difficult to get through emotionally, but it’s a heck of a ride.