The word is everywhere: “Room,” by Irish writer Emma Donoghue, is one of the very best novels of this year – disturbing, but funny at times.

The story is told from the point of view of Jack, a 5-year-old boy who has lived his entire life in one room. He knows nothing of what exists outside the room.

While Jack’s mother is his only human companion, he has named and made “friends” of all the things in the room; thus, “Rug,” “Shelf” and “Meltedy Spoon” are all his companions too. Television, though, is not their friend, and his mother has told him that watching TV all day will turn their brains to mush.

So, instead they play. In the game
“Orchestra” the two make noises by pounding pans or spoons on everything around them. In “Race Track,” they run in a circle around the 11-foot square room. They make toys from eggshells and flour paste. Jack’s childhood is very happy, thinking whatever he sees on television is make-believe and that the world is just him, his mother and “Room.”

As the story unfolds, Jack observes things that mean little to him, but clue the reader to what is happening, and ultimately Jack and his mother decide they must change with their surroundings.

The voice of this child is very engaging, with his often-insightful, often-funny observations about his expanding world. This novel is one of the five finalists for the Mann Booker Award.