… Yet another BOTM choice I passed up and picked up as a prize from my library’s summer reading club. Again, I voted for it a few times at book club in hopes that it would become our book, but it never won. I’m trying to read all of the books I own, so now I’m just knocking them off the shelf one-by-one.
The Mars Room
by Rachel Kushner
Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Mars Room is a fictional glimpse into the women’s prison life of Romy Hall. Facing two consecutive life sentences, Romy leaves behind the world as she knew it, including her son, and enters into a world where women will do whatever they can to get by in a system set against them. As they face the consequences of their actions, they’re up against the cruelties of prison – the grunt jobs they have to work for mere cents per hour, the violence from guards and fellow prisoners, being given minimal essentials, etc.
“I can only know myself, if I can know anyone. I can only judge me.”– Rachel Kushner, The Mars Room
Awards (based upon my brief research):
Booker Prize Nominee (2018)
Prix Médicis Etranger (2018)
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee for Fiction (2018)
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction (2018)
My Overall Rating:
3 – I wanted to believe this was going to be like Orange is the New Black, but it was actually quite different. It was more slice-of-life, and less story-like. With a slow start, the book jumped around between various interwoven plots, before reaching its culmination. I could have given the beginning a 2, the middle a 3, and the ending a 4 (hence my 3), because the beginning was rough, the middle was just ok, and the ending was solid.
That being said, I did really appreciate Kushner’s sense of humor. There were parts where I literally laughed out loud. What I didn’t appreciate was how she had me rooting for Romy. No, I do not think our criminal justice system is sound, but also, we have to do something for people who commit crimes like those committed by our fictional Romy here… So I struggled with the way Kushner has the reader wanting Romy to get out of prison. I don’t know what the right answer is for what her punishment should be, but there is a reason she is being punished.