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, Literary Fiction, Contemporary

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...
  • Elyse
    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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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 ...
  • 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.
  • Joseph
    The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner is a fictional examination of not only the prison system but of the circumstances and the people that are fed into the system. Kushner is also the author of The Flamethrowers, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and a New York Times Top Five Novel of 2013. Her debut novel, Telex from Cuba, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book. She is the recip...
  • Rebecca McNutt
    I really liked this book for the most part; The Mars Room paints a vivid and haunting portrayal of life in a women's prison and what may have led to it, capturing perfectly the sense of isolation and injustice. That said, it seemed like the characters were almost unreal in a sense, and I didn't like how the book seemed to be blaming the the legal system for everyone's woes. It does make some good points about jury trials and family issues and stu...
  • Blair
    The Mars Room is a politically motivated novel, described in its blurb as 'a bold and unsentimental panorama of life on the margins of contemporary America, [and] an excoriating attack on the prison-industrial complex'. The protagonist, Romy, is in prison. As we see through meandering flashbacks in her inner narrative, her young life is turbulent and traumatic, exaggerated to extremes that, for most, will be unimaginable – going to hotel rooms ...
  • Tatiana
    Well written on a technical level, but there is not a single thing in this novel that hasn't been covered elsewhere, for instance, on Orange Is The New Black (the show). Adding Theroux quotes didn't elevate it to anything new, IMO.
  • Peter Boyle
    In the opening pages of The Mars Room, we are introduced to Romy Hall, and things are not going well for her, to put it mildly. In a previous life, she worked at a strip club and was a single mother to her young son, Jackson. Now she is being transported to a Women's Correctional Facility in central California to serve two life sentences. The story follows her struggle behind bars, the connections she keeps in order to stay alive and sane in this...
  • Roman Clodia
    4.5 stars Prison was a place where you had to be strong to get through each day. If you thought about some awful act you'd committed, every day, in graphic detail, enough to prove to a parole board that you had insight, the proverbial insight they wanted, needed, to let you go home, you might lose your mind. To stay sane, that was the thing. To stay sane you formed a version of yourself you could believe in. What strikes me about this book is the...
  • ♥ Sandi ❣
    DNF I will not rate this because I absolutely could not force my way through it. I waited impatiently for this book to be published and obtained by my library. I picked up the CD set. I got through 4 of 9 discs - barely. I really wanted to like this book. I have never read Rachel Kushner before - and may never again - if this is typical of her work. However, I expected to like this book because I read and enjoy a lot of fiction and non-fiction ac...
  • Tyler Goodson
    One of the best of 2018 for sure. Masterful and unforgettable.
  • Canadian Reader
    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—named by her entirely unfit, perpetually depressed mother after the film-star daughter of a German actress who’d been acquainted with Hitler (hardly an auspicious start i...
  • switterbug (Betsey)
    The eponymous Mars Room is a strip club in San Francisco, where the protagonist, Romy, age 29, used to work. She liked it, because she made good money and could buy drugs, get high, and the money helped support her son, Jackson (who is now seven). Romy won’t see him anymore, though, because she is serving two life sentences plus six years. This is mostly a narrative about Romy’s life in prison, and her thoughts, and the claustrophobic existen...
  • Dan Friedman
    Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room is an important novel, required reading for anybody with even passing interest in gender, race, class, and the American penal system. The Mars Room is largely told in the first person by Romy Hall, formerly a lap dancer, now trying to survive a life sentence in California prisons for murdering a stalker. Hall’s voice is clear and believable. She presents herself honestly and without shame: ”I realized that the...
  • Neil
    I think I would like to hear more from Kushner about the motivations for this book and the choices she made regarding its structure before I make a final judgement on how I feel about it. It seems to have received a lot of positive reviews in the pre-publication buzz. It is supposed to be a gritty prison drama that has something to say about incarceration, poverty/class, sexism and other topics. I was looking forward to reading it. And it does in...
  • Terence M
    Audiobook - 9:42 hours - Reader: Rachel KushnerRead 6:34 hours (67.0%) DNF - 1.0 starLate last year I read some reviews of this novel which were highly positive and these reviews, combined with the well-researched subject matter, lead me to think this would be a great read. I acquired the audiobook and it has been sitting there waiting for me to choose a time when my headspace was in need of something gutsy, raw, and a bit different. What I liste...
  • Jessica Sullivan
    4/5 Stars.This is a book about choices and consequences. But life is more than that: it’s also circumstances. This is a book about circumstances, too.Romy is serving a double life sentence in a California prison. Like most of the women there, her life before was tough and gritty. She was a stripper in a seedy club. She tried to do right by her son, Jackson, but made the wrong choice in murdering a customer who stalked her.The Mars Room shifts p...
  • Meow
    I was blown away by The Mars Room. Reading this was akin to watching a modern day "human circus" from a front row seat.The main character, Romy. is a “street smart”, hustling, “do what you gotta do” straight up kind of woman. Romy is someone I’d want to know, talk to, observe. She is a survivor who has been living on the fringes of society for most of her life. All her choices have been her own - including working as a lap dancer at a s...
  • Kathleen
    Kushner’s previous two novels have been nominated for the National Book Award (Telex From Cuba and The Flamethrowers) so this gifted writer’s latest offering was greeted eagerly by critics. But The Mars Room represents a new direction for Kushner. After spending years visiting women’s prisons in the state of California, she has written a depressing tale about women trapped in the American prison system. The story follows Romy Hall, a 29-yea...
  • debra
    3ish Liked the Romy parts inside and out of prison. Author writes really well, but IMO the novel didn't really hang together. Shelby*trains flying monkeys* expressed my feelings perfectly in her review.
  • Lolly K Dandeneau
    via my blog:'Certain women in prison make rules for everyone else, and the woman insisting on quiet was one of those. If you follow their rules, they make more rules. You have to fight people or you end up with nothing.'Everything has already been taken from Romy Hall, but at what point did her life, her little boy Jackson begin to drift away? With two consecutive life sentences to be served at the Stanville...