The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

The Mars Room

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 a...

Details The Mars Room

TitleThe Mars Room
Release DateMay 1st, 2018
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction

Reviews The Mars Room

  • Emily May
    2 1/2 stars. It's taken me a long time to admit that I just didn't like The Mars Room very much. Even as I was struggling to keep my eyes on the page, keep reading, and not get distracted by that piece of fluff on the floor, I was doing my best to write a positive review in my head.I thought I would love it. It felt like I should. What doesn't sound great about a gritty prison novel dissecting class, wealth and other power structures in the penal...
  • Angela M
    3.5 stars I read an in-depth article in New Yorker Magazine that made it apparent why Rachel Kushner can so vividly bring her characters in this book to life. (The link to the article is below.) She followed an inmate at a California prison because she wanted to have people in her life “that the State of California rendered invisible to others.” She brings these real people to us through a cast of characters in her fictional account of life i...
  • Charlotte May
    "If I had never worked at The Mars Room. If I had never met Creep Kennedy. If Creep Kennedy had not decided to stalk me. But he did decide to, and then he did it relentlessly. If none of that had happened, I would not be on a bus heading for a life in a concrete slot." The Mars Room grabbed me from the get-go and I was hooked! Romy Hall is serving two life sentences for murdering her stalker in front of a child. Before this she worked as a stripp...
  • Elyse Walters
    Library Overdrive by Rachel Kushner I didn’t even consider this book when it first popped up. “Telex From Cuba” was a little too politically dense and long. There was a good story inside - but I remember the time & effort I put in - and wasn’t looking forward to ‘that’ experience again. Plus I have a paper copy of “The Flame Throwers” which I’ve started and stopped too many times. (the damn print is tiny)....So...
  • Debbie
    When a friend asked me whether I liked the book I was reading, I told her, “It’s refreshing! A novel about women in prison!” I was dead serious. It was only after my friend was losing it, laughing so hard, that I realized how weird my comment was. Laughing now too, I tried to defend myself. I just get tired of straight old life; there’s so much “regular” out there. Can I help it if I like to read about down-and-outers? The truth is, t...
  • Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
    I'm one to admit when I just do not get the hype on a book. This is one that I just did not jump on the train with. I am bit confused by it actually. The majority of the book is about Romy, who has been sentenced to two life sentences for murdering her stalker. She is poor and worked as a she basically stood no chance in the justice system.This part of the book kept me interested. For some sicko reason prison type dramas are one of m...
  • Barry Pierce
    Orange is the New Bleh.
  • Perry
    The Mars Room is a provocative, raveworthy exploration of choices or, indeed, the absence of any perceived choice for adolescent and teen female criminals on the lower echelon of the socio-economic scale who grow up sexually abused, addicted to street drugs and/or engaged in a sex-related trade because they've had no choice in where, how and by whom they were raised, the adverse societal effects being the counterproductive institutionalization of...
  • Esil
    The Mars Room pushed all the right buttons for me. I liked Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, but this was something else altogether. Here Kushner uses her talent to extraordinarily potent effect. The story is set in the early 2000s, focused primarily on Romy Hall, who is in a women’s prison for life for murder. Kushner does a great job of showing the reality of Romy’s life — where she came from, how she got to prison, and her life in prison. T...
  • Justin Tate
    At first this seems like a monumental achievement; a masterful storyteller giving voice to the incarcerated. Difficult characters come to life in unexpected ways. They're complex, flawed, a little evil and a lot good. The writing--as in, the actual formulation of words--is truly impressive. About a third of the way in, however, it becomes abundantly clear that no plot will emerge and the same old theme will be sung many times over. The edgy chara...
  • Meike
    Rachel Kushner writes about mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex, and she does it by looking at the individuals who make up that mass, and the singular rules and facilities that constitute the bigger complex. Novels about the poor, about drug addicts and the disenfranchised always run the risk to use their protagonists as mere devices in order to illustrate societal problems (even Brecht often did that), but Kushner gives her char...
  • Brandice
    I’m bummed to say that I didn’t enjoy The Mars Room. It seems to be one of those books where people like it or they don’t, with little middle ground. Unfortunately I’m in Camp Don’t on this one. The story begins with a young woman, Romy Hall, who is on a bus ride to a new prison in California. Prior to prison, she was a stripper at The Mars Room, and is a single mom with one son, Jackson. While I did appreciate the true, unpleasant real...
  • Trish
    Rachel Kushner’s novels defy categorization. Her work reads easily but has a complexity that resists summation. She breaks rules and changes minds. This novel is both heavy and light at the same time, like a women’s prison in the Central Valley of California is tragic and absurd. Only for the untethered is it the joke it sometimes appears. Kushner is for adults. She talks about sex and violence in a way that only adults will understand. Devia...
  • Norma * Traveling Sister
    3.5 stars!I received an ARC from a Goodreads Giveaway of THE MARS ROOM by RACHEL KUSHNER. Thank you so much! I thought this was a very good read and I’m glad that I read it! I think it’s definitely worth the read!Even though this book was a little structurally & mentally challenging for me to read there was something about it that had me glued to those pages. When I wasn’t reading this one, I was thinking about it. It got under my skin, I w...
  • Marchpane
    For some reason I had a preconceived idea that The Mars Room would be a po-faced social commentary loosely shaped into a novel. Expecting a lecture, I got a guttural roar. Not to mention a ‘stayed up all night to finish it’ compulsive read.Comparisons to Orange is the New Black (the show, not the book) are apt, but only to a point. Where that show often adds levity in the form of goofy comedy and prison romance, The Mars Room avoids sensation...
  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    This is a strong case of "it's not you, it's me." I have tried to read and like Rachel Kushner before, back when I read The Flamethrowers when it was the it book of the season. In the case of that book, what lingers is the description of the motorcycle crossing the salt flats, but at no point did I connect to the plot or characters. And unfortunately we are here again. I've read almost 40% but just need to acknowledge that it isn't working for me...
  • Kelli
    I found this book structurally challenging, emotionally distant, and intentionally didactic. I’ve hit a rough patch with popular books recently, so I tried to ignore how disjointed this felt (and how disinterested I was) but in the end, it’s a 2.5 for me.
  • j e w e l s
    THREE STARSUsually, I steer clear of audiobooks that are read by the author. Because....uggggh! Writers should write and actors should read. In this case, I'm so glad I took the chance.Author Rachel Kushner read her novel aloud in such a sweet, vulnerable and sincere voice that you can't help but fall in love with her. Ironically, the story she is reading is harsh, unblinking and completely unsentimental. The contrast definitely works.I wish I co...
  • Hugh
    Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018My ninth book from the longlist is perhaps the most difficult to assess. In normal circumstances the Californian prison system would not be a subject I would choose to read about, but I did find quite a lot to like in this book.The central story of Romy, a lap dancer and mother of a young boy, who is jailed for life for attacking a stalker she finds on her doorstep, is powerful and moving. Her story is int...
  • Gumble's Yard
    Now shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, This probably represened the most hyped and predictable book on a longlist which largely avoided the expected and established literary choices in favour of readability, the inclusion of new genres/media and a theme of a “world on the brink”. It is a book whose first chapter ends with a startling image, for me perhaps the most powerful of the longlist. As a prisoner is en route to serving two cons...
  • Ron Charles
    More than a week before the release of Rachel Kushner’s new novel, “The Mars Room,” the New York Times published an excerpt in a special 12-page section. Hauntingly illustrated and spiced with artsy pull-quotes, it was an extraordinary presentation designed to proclaim the advent of an extraordinary book. Indeed, a Times book critic followed up with a review calling “The Mars Room” “a major novel.”Which may be the problem with this ...
  • Trudie
    This is arguably the superstar novel on this years Man Booker longlist, a book I would happily see win but doubt will do so, principally because I don't think the British can handle a third year shut out of their own prize ;) ( Although, as an impartial observer, that outcome would amuse me).Booker politics aside, I thought this novel held up well to the hype and critical praise it is receiving. Its probably good to point out the review from Dwig...
  • Neil
    UPDATE:When I first read this book, several months before it was long listed and then shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, I did not enjoy it. I found it haphazard. Read my review below for my thoughts at that time.Then the discussions opened up on GR once it was on the Booker list. I came to a view that perhaps I had misread the book. I decided that if it made the shortlist, I would re-read it.I have now done this.If you have not read the book ...
  • Dianne
    This is an interesting look at incarceration. It’s set up as the life story of Romy Hall, a stripper at The Mars Room and single mother of a young son, Jackson. Romy’s story starts with her bus ride, in chains and shackles, to the Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility in California where she will be serving two life sentences. Kushner gradually knits Romy’s backstory together, alternating between Romy and other characters associated wit...
  • Maxwell
    Life is brutal. And the life we lead is directed by choices we make and often sacrifices, which are choices in and of themselves, lead us down paths that make us feel helpless, out of control; ironic when a choice you make leads to that state of helplessness. Rachel Kushner examines that 'control' and does so excellently in this novel. Looking at the prison system is one way of examining control—where everything is rigid and pre-determined, lea...
  • Paula Kalin
    3.5 out of 5 stars
  • Mwanamali
    He had in his mind something that Nietzsche had said about truth. That each man is entitled to as much of it as he can bear.It’s often in the best interests of your emotional well-being to read a New Yorker short story with absolutely no expectations to get your heart massaged and your feelings coddled. They are batshit crazy and unbelievably well written. Honestly, reading them is usually an exercise (for me) in ego maintenance. Because every ...
  • Canadian
    This is a grim narrative written a flat, dead tone. Its central focus is a 29-year-old female inmate who has been sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus six years in a California prison for the murder of her stalker, Kurt (“the Creep”) Kennedy. Romy Leslie Hall’s unfit, perpetually depressed mother had named her after the film-star daughter of a German actress acquainted with Hitler. With this less-than-auspicious moniker marking ...
  • Hannah
    Rachel Kushner has written a book that is very obviously close to her heart and the result of a whole lot of research. I found her personal stance to be understandable and un-deniable but she did not sacrifice her writing or her plot to make her point.The anchor of this sprawling story of women in prison is Romy Hall, sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the killing of her stalker. The book starts heart-wrenchingly with her being drive...