not merely superfluous, but ridiculous
this post was originally published on my Goodreads account. Major spoilers for this book follow.
This book is divided into four parts. I got to the end of part 2 at 9:30 at night, and I knew I was not going to get any sleep until the book was finished. It’s rare that a book can get its hooks in quite as deep as this one did. I wanted to keep reading after it was finished, keep seeing what happened next, keep losing myself in the rhythms of minor victories and difficult setbacks the novel had created by that point. At the same time, I had to admit the ending was perfect.
It’s a curious thing, the way Donoghue consistently puts us at odds with Jack: the beginning of the book, when he’s happy, is slow going, and there isn’t much reason to read except for the unique prose style and the various questions an abduction scenario tends to bring up. The second part, with Jack out in the world and frightened or stressed by everything around him, is compulsively readable. It’s like we’re getting the thrill of discovery Jack is too overstimulated to appreciate.
Not everything is perfect. The shift to escape seems somewhat abrupt, and Jack’s escape attempt goes almost impossibly well, but Donoghue lays enough plot around those that I can accept them happening. Also, if you aren’t interested in the book’s prose, it’s going to be hard to get through the first section.
But you should get through it, because what follows isn’t just an excellent thriller and heartbreaking character study, it’s a whole world of deeper understanding waiting to be unearthed. There’s small realizations about the characters I kept on stumbling across as I read the book. The major realization of the second half of the book, for me, was that Jack’s mother was so determined he was going to grow up happy that she ended up putting their happiness at odds: perfect happiness, for him, is the nightmare she worked to escape, and even though he might get something better, he’ll never get that early childhood sense of complete happiness and safety back. None of us ever do.