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The Mars Room (Audiobook) Bets On...

About the Author

About the Book

The Mars Room (Audiobook)

written and read by Rachel Kushner

September 2018

I listened to THE MARS ROOM by Rachel Kushner, which is also narrated by her. The print copy had been on my shelf for a while, so I was happy to have an opportunity to listen to it on audio, a medium that has allowed me to augment my reading time. In fact, I think the book was even more powerful to me for having listened to it.

THE MARS ROOM is set in 2003 in a women’s prison in central California, where Romy Hall is serving two consecutive life sentences, which means that even if she comes up for parole, she will just begin her next sentence. It opens as Romy is on a bus heading to prison; she is narrating what this ride is like and describing everyone on the bus. You get the feeling that this woman has a perspective on being a prisoner that shows she is more aware than the other prisoners, smarter, and better able to see the big picture of what is going on. From her observations, she became a trusted narrator to me.

Reading the book, you feel like you are inside the prison walls, and incarceration is stifling on so many levels. Infractions lead to penalties; the opportunities are slim. Throughout, you wonder exactly what Romy did to get her there. You know she worked in a strip club, but clearly that did not get her a life sentence, let alone two. The story behind her crime is not revealed until the closing chapters.

Romy loves her son, Jackson, who is on the outside. She talks wistfully of her days with him, and their story takes a terrible turn when she loses touch with him after her mother has an accident. At this moment, I felt the most for Romy. She is desperate to find him, but there are huge barriers put around her to keep her from learning where he is. She tries to make calls, but needs those receiving her calls to have Global Tel Link (which I knew nothing about).

We get background on the other prisoners as well, in a layered way. You learn about who they are, as well as their crimes. You can say it’s like ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, but it feels smarter and bleaker, maybe because so much internal storytelling is going on that is not shown, but we know what Romy is feeling.

I listened to some interviews and learned that Rachel spent a lot of time researching prisons and speaking with prisoners. Her passion for grappling with the justice system, as well as those who are wrapped up in it, comes through. The voices in THE MARS ROOM are sharp and clear.

For all its darkness and tough storytelling, I found myself looking forward to listening each day. It would make for a great book group discussion, as the conversation can veer in so many different directions.

The Mars Room (Audiobook)
written and read by Rachel Kushner

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Audio: pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • ISBN-10: 1508244375
  • ISBN-13: 9781508244370