Monday, May 28, 2018

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

The Mars Room begins with a bus ride as Romy Hall is transported to the prison where she will serve two consecutive life sentences.  What her crimes are will be revealed later as will her life story.  She grew up in San Francisco, not the city that tourists love but the seedy parts where a girl with no parents who care about her will roam the streets searching for what she does not know.  Where a ten year old girl on the streets in the rain at midnight will accompany an older man to his hotel room when he offers her help, not knowing the price.  Where she moves through a variety of men one of whom gives her the only joy in her life, her son Jackson.  Where she spends her time working in the arid fields of sex work, her haunt the dance stage of the Mars Room.

Now her former life is stripped away, even her connection to her son.  She must master and find a way to survive in a new universe as it is the only one she will know for the rest of her life.  Some women will manage to leave but that is not Romy's fate.  She forms relationships with some of the women there and shows occasional flashes of kindness but the safest way to live is with no connections that can tear and break what little is left of her heart.

Ruchel Kushner is one of the younger generation of novelists whose work has been singled out for praise.  Her novels have been National Book Award nominees and finalists in many other literary recognitions.  She has the ability to quickly catch the character of individuals whom are strangers to the reader but whose lives will sear their way into the brain, difficult to forget.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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