Reviews

The Mars Room // Rachel Kushner

The Mars RoomI’ll keep this short and sweet, as plenty has been written about the new novel from National Book Award finalist Rachel Kushner.

Romy isn’t quite sure where she went wrong. What is this decision? Or that one? Now serving two consecutive life sentences, Romy examines her choices, starting in her wild and neglected childhood, and how her choices may not have been choices at all.

You would not have gone. I understand that. You would not have gone up to his room. You would not have asked him for help. You would not have been wandering lost at midnight at age eleven. You would have been safe and dry and asleep, at home with your mother and your father who cared about you and had rules, curfews, expectations. Everything for you would have been different. But if you were me, you would have done what I did. You would have gone, hopeful and stupid, to get the money for the taxi.

Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room is a remarkable novel about life in prison, life leading up to prison, and those that cross the path of prisoners – fellow inmates, a well-meaning GED teacher, the police officers and lawyers involved in the justice system. The timeline moves back and forth, and to multiple characters, although it primarily sticks with Romy (though there are even excerpts by convicted Unabomber Ted Kaczynski). It’s difficult to do this hard, humane novel justice in so few words, but it’s a thoughtful, nuanced story of the circumstances and decisions that, in the end, make up an entire life.

The quiet of the cell is where the real question lingers in the mind of a woman. The one true question, impossible to answer. The why did you. The how. Not the practical how, the other one. How could you have done such a thing. How could you.

*I received a review copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

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