Last summer, when I sped-read through ROOM in a couple of days, I couldn’t help but think about the Jaycee Dugard case. In fact, I assumed Emma Donoghue had found the spark for her fiction from this newspaper headline. I later learned that she had, indeed, been inspired by the real news, just not this story.
Still, I started reading this book with Jaycee’s story in my head. This made it tough going. At first. I remember taking a breath when I found myself deep enough into the fiction of Donoghue’s novel — relieved by it being so much more about the mother/child bond than the kidnapping and sexual abuse — that I let it go. Only then did I appreciate the originality of Donaghue’s story and her discipline and style in the writing of it. A year later, I still remember lines from this well-crafted book; it was that original, that engaging, that good.
Yesterday, Emma Donaghue gave a reading at Kepler’s Book Store here in Northern California. The same day, a few miles away, Jaycee’s kidnapper was finally sentenced to 431 years for his crime, a crime that began with his stun-gun abduction of an 11 year old girl and fell into 18 years of evil and abuse. When I first saw this number, my gut response was, even 431 years doesn’t sound long enough. At the sentencing, Jaycee’s mother read a statement from her daughter telling her kidnapper, in part: You do not matter anymore.
The real facts of this story, however, do matter. Next month, Jaycee’s memoir about her abduction and captivity will be released by Simon and Schuster. She wrote the book herself — no ghost writer — and I think she is so brave to tell it. Yet I don’t know if I can read it. Which makes me feel guilty. Guilty, like it was okay when I was reading what I thought was the fictional take but I lack the heart and courage to hear the real words.