October 16, 2018
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a 29-year-old woman having to serve two (not one) consecutive life sentences? Oh, and did I mention that in addition to this sentence, there would be zero hope (zilch) of ever seeing your young son again? The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner tells the fictional story of Romy Hall (San Francisco, 2000’s) and her journey to and her life long residency at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility in California. Romy is a single mother to her son Jackson and a former stripper at the club, The Mars Room (a seedy at best strip club). The short of it is that Romy kills a man who was seriously stalking her. I will admit, I am not a huge fan of murder, and crimes of this nature typically deserve some type of consequence. But here’s the scoop: Romy was assigned a public defender and had no say in the matter. Now, I do not have a law degree or pretend to know of these affairs, but based on what I read, Romy was totally under defended and the flaws in the justice system were made very apparent. Sadly, the odds were stacked against her from the start. With a past that was anything but stellar and her socioeconomic status/lack of resources, it was made clear that her case was basically abandoned.
Throughout the story, Kushner adds in the backstories of other characters and prisoners from the book. I could see how a reader may consider these additions confusing and just plain choppy. I found myself acknowledging this detail, but not overthinking it. I found the individual stories of the others only added more flavor to what I was reading. My curiosity and fascination with Romy’s path and prison life in general propelled me forward.
Kushner makes it evident that behind bars is no place to be. The Mars Room is not a book that aims to entertain. It makes you think, really think. It makes you uncomfortable. It makes you look at pieces of your life that you may just take for granted. It will show you how fragile human existence can be. It gives you an ending that will haunt you long after you read the last page.
I truly hope that others will give this book a go and expand their reading boundaries. I look forward to writing to you soon.
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. If you enjoy chasing a shot of tequila with a lime, you may enjoy chasing this book with a Danielle Steel book (circa 1980’s). You get my drift!!!!!