The Mars Room

The Mars Room

A Novel

Book - 2018
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"From twice National Book Award-nominated Rachel Kushner, whose Flamethrowers was called "the best, most brazen, most interesting book of the year" (Kathryn Schulz, New York magazine), comes a spectacularly compelling, heart-stopping novel about a life gone off the rails in contemporary America. It'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. Stunning and unsentimental, The Mars Room demonstrates new levels of mastery and depth in Kushner's work. It is audacious and tragic, propulsive and yet beautifully refined."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, NY : Scribner, 2018
Edition: First Scribner hardcover edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9781476756554
Call Number: F KUSHNER
Characteristics: 338 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Previous selection: July 10th, 2019.

Two-time National Book Award finalist Kushner (The Flamethrowers) delivers a heartbreaking and unforgettable novel set in a California women’s prison.

List - HERstory
SFPL_LisaF Jan 10, 2019

It’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.

From the critics

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Dec 24, 2020

"Great humor" - not for me. Totally depressing. I really did not bond with any character. I do not recommend this book. Kristi & Abby Tabby

Nov 23, 2020

I was stunned by how good this book is -- with its unadorned, matter-of-fact depiction of depressing and desperate lives. At the same time, I found it to be deeply humane in its unsentimental sympathy not just with the highly appealing Romy Hall, the rather naive and deluded Gordon Hauser, and the other women prisoners, but with the crooked and psychopathic ex-cop Doc Coleman -- and at the end even with Kurt Kennedy -- the stalker whom Romy killed. I have two responses to readers who are disappointed with the lack of "plot." This seems to stem from two characteristics of this novel: 1) the inclusion of many minor characters who didn't seem to advance the main action or plot in an obvious way and 2) the lack of a satisfying ending with an explicit accounting for how the lives of the characters "turn out," let alone meeting an expectation that those fates will be knit together. My response would also be two-fold: 1) Pay closer attention -- not only does the reader get important information about prison life from the "side stories", but some casually mentioned actions in a couple of these "side stories" have enormous consequences. 2) In a term we used to hear more often, this book works by "slice of life" naturalism -- in which a seemingly arbitrary sequence of events in a character's life is presented, often lacking conventional plot development, conflict and exposition, and often with an open or unresolved ending. And that's life. You don't need a neatly constructed ending to get the point about the characters' lives.

JCLMaggieS Sep 15, 2020

A blunt, irreverent and darkly charming account through a broken and corrupt criminal justice system, exploring the cyclical nature of abuse and victimization.

Jul 19, 2020

suggested by "5 Best" WSJ 7/18/20

OPL_AnnaW Sep 05, 2019

Narrated by a new inmate in a California women's prison, read this book is you're interested in our criminal justice system, social inequity, and colorful seedy characters.

Apr 05, 2019

Too depressing to finish.

Mar 24, 2019

I wanted to like this book but just couldn’t connect with the character or story. There were useless characters as well within the storyline which I found frustrating.

Mar 13, 2019

I liked her style

Jan 18, 2019

She portrayed the lives, so intense for me (not a masochist) to experience, behind bars and in one’s mind, which would be otherwise beyond my imagination farther away than Mars.
All the characters, including ones with short appearances and three straight males, composed a somber collage full of dark
humor. Each has its own right to live in the book, without dazzling the vision.
I had a minor problem with the order of narrations (mostly monologues of Romy). A convenient vehicle to tell the story? To a less interested reader, the structure may be felt impulsive and disjointed.
The book touched many subjects of the society and environment we live in, never geared up to analyze. I’m deeply drawn to author (Romy)’s perception of (old / another side of) San Francisco and “man-made hell”.
Amor Fati!

Jan 13, 2019

Novel about women in prison doesn't seem written as much as born, or witnessed. Unapologetic, frank, utterly believable and compelling, Kushner goes beyond empathy or flashiness to just show you. Memorable.

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Oct 01, 2018

That life does not go off the rails because it is the rails,goes where it goes.


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