January 10

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

In truth, I probably could have flown to Mars in the time in took me to read The Mars Room. I am sadly alone on this because it seems this book was being devoured left, right and centre by everyone over the holiday break – well those on Instagram anyway.

It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just found it difficult to get through and I am confused as to why. Kushner’s style is so very, very good.  However, as I have said before some books serve different parts of you, at different times and if you aren’t in sync at that moment with a particular storyline, then give up. It ain’t gonna work.

This was me and The Mars Room.   In theory we were a good Tinder match, in reality,  no spark.

Kushner has written a tale set deep inside institutional life.  Romy Hall is at the beginning of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility in California.  Her old life in San Francisco is gone and with it her son who she has no access to following the sudden death of her mother.  He has ended up in the care of the system so like Romy, he disappears.

None of it is pretty.  It’s heartbreaking and violent and full of despair.  Other reviewers have said Kushner wove through sharp, clever humour to ease the bitterness but grumpy old me missed those bits.

But having said all of this, would I tell you to read it?  Yes, because I truly think my struggling with it was more about me than the book.

I may devote a meditation to it because while I could see the light, I just couldn’t get to the other side…..a little like Romy looking at the outside world from the darkness of her prison cell perhaps?

But that is just my two cents worth.