The Mars Room by Rachel KushnerIt’s 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth and her young son, Jackson. Inside is a new reality: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner evokes with great humor and precision.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner review – what it means to be poor and female in America
Setting a novel inside a prison throws up a significant narrative hurdle: how do you get a story going in an environment where no one is going anywhere? In The Mars Room , Rachel Kushner vaults over any such obstacles to produce one of the greatest novels I have read in years. Her prior novel, The Flamethrowers , was expansive and thrilling, but this is richer and deeper, more ambitious in its moral vision. Trying to absorb the shock of her new reality, wrenched away from her young son, Romy recalls her life as a drug-hungry slacker in a city evoked in deft lyrical strokes. We get a sense of the confused, all-too-human path that has led Romy into the cage of her destiny. Other chapters concern peripheral characters such as Gordon, the earnest literature teacher who keeps falling for his incarcerated pupils.
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The Mars Room Review
From the author of internationally acclaimed The Flamethrowers — a fearless and heartbreaking novel about love, friendship and incarceration. Her crime? The killing of her stalker. Inside awaits a world where women must hustle and fight for the bare essentials. Outside: the San Francisco of her youth.
T hey are strip-searched, shackled, Tasered and put in cages; their babies are taken away at birth. We first meet Romy Hall on the bus to Stanville some time in the first decade of this century: she is 29, a single mother, and about to begin two consecutive life sentences for killing her stalker. Or a short life, necessarily. Being sick from Bacardi and splitting my chin open on a concrete barrier in Minipark. The same hierarchies and rules apply in the cells of Stanville as in the club dressing room: mind your own business and never tell anyone your real name. Kushner, always a diligent researcher, spent time in prisons and displays an impressive knowledge of life inside.