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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shadan
This novel is the real thing. I've recommended it to many formerly incarcerated women who I work with and they all agree. It's important and brilliant, a page-turner. Too bad it's not out in paperback yet, so I can't send it to prisoners.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
enira
What a talent Kushner has! Her writing is stark but moving, tragic yet hopeful, so alive no matter how depressing the topic is and life in prison where choices are narrow to a pin prick is about as bad as life gets. Romy is a young mother who came of age in the 90’s. She grew up poor and close to parentless so her future never seemed bright. She and her fellow street mates raise one another. Without the advantage of feeling she had choice much less positive ones her life spins down until it crashes.

This is not a light hearted look at life in a female prison a la Orange is the New Black. The women are damaged to begin with and though they attempt to form yet another dysfunctional family in their overcrowded environment doom is palpable. One bright spot is the GED class some of them attend though the irony is that Romy graduated from high school and was even a good student, it’s assumed by the instructor and the other inmates that she had little education. Sadly most of the population are dropouts with learning disabilities and crippling emotional problems. They’re drowning, no they’ve actually almost drowned under the weight of where they came from.

Don’t pick up this book is you’re wanting light entertainment. This isn’t that book. It does give lots to think about in new ways. It’s hard to believe that someone Kushner’s age has this level of insight. That’s what is uplifting.

Thank you to the publisher for providing an ecopy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
charles egeland
Oh good grief to some of the reviews. Read this as a well done and to my mind fascinating portrait of damaged people in a damaging system. Romy is the star of this novel- she's dealing with two life sentences plus six years for a crime that doesn't entirely become clear until the end of the book when you meet the man she murdered. You also meet the other women on her block- the memorable Conan, Sammy, Button, and Laura- and get a sense of what it must be like to be incarcerated. Hauser who teaches at the prison becomes interested in these women. You'll also meet Doc, a crooked cop in a men's prison because of what he did for a woman now on death row. The perspective and narrator shifts from chapter to chapter. I did find the periodic pieces from the Unabomber confusing and irrelevant to the story (I suspect this leads to both praise and shade from other reviewers.). Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. I'd not read Kushner before this and am happy to have had the opportunity with this novel. Recommend to those interested in a gritty, at times sexually explicit, look at prison culture.
Rooms: a novel :: Giovanni's Room :: The Room in Grandma's House: A Fantasy Short :: Pocket Guide to the Operating Room (Pocket Guide to Operating Room) :: A Room with a View (Dover Thrift Editions)
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kimber frantz
I was provided an advance e-galley of this novel from the publisher, Scribner, through Netgalley.

3.5 stars. The Mars Room kept my attention. It's well-written, a fascinating look inside the mind of inmates, as well as what life in prison might be like for those inmates. Kushner does a good job of drumming up sympathy for her prisoners, for the hopelessness of their situations and the lack of resources available to them. I've read reviews by others who didn't like her style of jumping from one character to another, but I thought it served the story well--building the tension and giving an alternate view. And while most of the book made me want to lock my doors and never leave my house again, it also reminded me that humans are fragile and easily broken.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kelsey hatley
Rachel Kushner’s new novel The Mars Room is a heartbreaking and unsparing look at a life gone sideways. From a young age Romy Hall became acclimatized to life on the street in San Francisco and seemed like someone who could navigate the fine line between survival and self-destruction. But a bad history with an obsessive strip club visitor leads the young mother to an unfortunate encounter and two life sentences in prison.

Separated from and unable to get in contact with her son, Hall tries to reconcile her new life with her old. Kushner draws a vivid picture of a woman growing up only knowing poverty and getting caught up in a system that has little regard for her plight.

The Mars Room (Scribner, digital galley) alternates between the present and Hall’s earlier life. While at times brutal, the novel offer an empathetic look at prison life and the rich cast of characters who reside there.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
adam mayle
THE MARS ROOM was one of my May picks from Book of the Month. Written by Rachel Kushner, published by Scribner. All opinions are my own.

Wow. First of all, I was immediately taken in with the tone of this book. It is direct, a bit brutal, and a bit sporadic: often jumping around in viewpoint and chronology. I initially found this stimulating and appealing. But as Romy’s story was slowly revealed to us in pieces it became for me like a roaring sense-of-consciousness tone poem of misery and entrapment.

It is fair to argue that this use of structure is really brilliant in mimicking the panicking, senseless wandering of the human mind when under-stimulated and confined. It is also an absolute surprise – I can genuinely say that I have not read a book like this before. That said, I found myself frustrated at trying to grasp the different sections of the narrative and hold them all together in my mind as piece by piece was revealed. The overall scope of plot was nearly lost entirely to me in this format. But then again, perhaps that is the point.

Regarding the humor alluded to in the synopsis, I would say I normally can really appreciate dark, stark, dry humor. Which, from Kushner, I was expecting in droves. This was not my experience here. If this is meant to be amusing, I missed that part of it entirely. That said, it is an interesting and honest look into the penal system (especially as applies to women), and I do appreciate that this is very much NOT Orange is The New Black.

*3 words: foreign, panic, deprivation

*what I loved: honesty. There is a great deal of honesty in this book.

*what I questioned: I really wish that the structure had allowed me as a reader to grasp onto the narrative more clearly. I think I would have felt more empathy for the characters if so.

*overall rating: 2.8 stars

** Find my bookish posts and reviews on Instagram at @mlleboaz.bibliophile !!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
camille jacobie
I did t really love this book. I feel like other than so,e strong characters the story was pretty one note and resembled a lot of what I’ve already seen or read about prison. Perhaps I missed something....thought it was ok!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
meg nguyen
No. Just no. This book was confusing, underdeveloped, and not interesting. It lacked everything I look for in a good book. I received it from Book of The Month club and am so disappointed. It doesn’t deserve a place on my shelf.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nessma aboul fotouh
One of the many wonderful things about reading novels is that they can take you places you've never been. Sometimes those are places to which you would never want to go EXCEPT through a book! Thanks to Rachel Kushner's riveting new novel, “The Mars Room", we go to Stanville Women's Prison and learn the system - the way life works there (and doesn't work), we learn about the inmates, the staff, and we even learn how to make prison hooch (disgusting).

I'm a fan of the Netflix series, "Orange is the New Black" and “Wentworth” - the later seasons when the stories concentrate on the various inmates and their personal ethos - so I was primed to enjoy "The Mars Room" which tells the story of Romy Hall after she is given two life sentences (plus 6 years), as well as the story of Gordon Hauser, a teacher at the prison. We learn about various other inmates in Stanville, but Romy’s particular story unfolds over the course of the book.

That Kushner perfectly paces Romy’s story, PLUS adds bits of Ted Kaczynski’s journals, and sprinkles in some Thoreau, AND adds a description of Nixon on the Grand Old Opry, and makes it all come together, is a testament to her superb writing skill! I read this novel quickly because I didn’t want to put it down, and then I was sad that it was over. Ah, but that’s the lament of every avid reader after finishing a delicious read, isn’t it?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
michael rank
This is as good a novel as you’ll read any time soon. The best I’ve read in a decade. Every page is a grabber for character, plot and setting, not to mention the very original and apt language, similes and all. Of course, with Ms. Kushner’s pedigree, no one should be surprised. From a cold start somewhere around 2005, she’s had two prior novels out, both of which were National Book Award nominees. Deserved nominees, too, although she hasn’t yet won it. My guess is that this time she does. As a writer myself, I can’t help but be jealous of her spectacular rise, but not grudgingly jealous, as I would be if her work was mediocre and her jackpots just rode on the luck of the moment. Instead, she’s the real deal.

So, go on, let Kushner’s Romy Hall take you inside the California women’s prison system, where a bravura whirl of characters and backstories construct whole worlds within those concrete walls and out. But her mastery is such that you’ll be swept into the whirl in a way that will never leave you confused as to whose point of view you are in or where in time or place you’re being taken. It’s like a magic trick. Even the pulse-pounding ending, which seems to be rushing toward some form of the book’s first and only cliché, is perfection when you reach the last page.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
silas
i've got to page 109, and don't know if i can force myself to pick the book up again. i needed a palate cleanser (short stories by curtis sittenfeld) to make it this far. the two stars are for a strong beginning. is kushner a good writer who is merely guilty of terrible pacing and weak insight into character? i don't know anymore. the way of literary novels these days is so anti-narrative. you put them down and forget you were ever reading them. way to lose your readers, no? masters like dickens and dostoyevsky were able to tell a grim story and keep it moving and make you care. and i love a dark story. just not this one. it's hopeless from the start and impossible to care because i can't FEEL anything. the characters are not real, the story is composed of disjointed paragraphs, and when an earlier characters shows up, i have to go back to figure out who it is because he left no impression. it's a dreary, dreary slog. if kushner's aim was to amke me feel as if were sharing a cell with a hostile stranger, she succeeded! fortunately i got my copy from the library. i can just return it .
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
karen lapuk
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 recipient of a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2016 Harold D. Vursell Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Romy Hall is being transported to Stanville Women's Correctional Facility isolated in California's Central Valley. There are no nearby towns and the only traffic on the roads are prison busses or prison staff. The scenery consists mostly of almond orchards. Hall has been sentenced to two life sentences plus additional time. She leaves behind her mother and her five-year-old son. The bus ride to Stanville is long and she is subjected to a talkative and annoying seatmate. There is also a teenager on the bus in the late stages of pregnancy. In fact, she gives birth during the prison indoctrination. The indoctrination continues as trustees mop up the afterbirth. Prisoners soon realize that they are no longer people and the staff has no sympathy or even empathy for any prisoner. The reader is taken on a journey both forward and back in time to examine Hall's life and her crime.

Interjected into the story are Gordon Hauser and Rich Richards. Hauser is a GED instructor who is the human side of the prison system. He has provided help to death row prisoners and befriends Hall. His relationship with Hall is through the GED program. He assumed Hall was uneducated and offers low-level math questions. Hall at first plays dumb but later admits she did graduate high school. Hauser buys her books to read. Rich "Doc" Richards is a crooked cop sentenced to prison. He is in the Sensitive Needs Unit of New Folsom Prison. He is protected and housed with offenders convicted of crimes against children and transgendered convicts. His role in the book is a comparison to Hall. Both lived in a seedier world. She a dancer at the sleazy Mars Room. He as a corrupt cop. Also interjected into the story are excerpts from Ted Kaczynski and Thoreau reflecting isolation in nature, opposed to institutionalized isolation, and also their versions of attacking the system.

The Mars Room is a dark book on the realities of the prison and justice system.  Kushner delivers a story that is empathic to the prisoners but not overly sympathetic.  Justice is blind, but not in the intended way.  The system is a rubber stamp that feeds the prisons.  The public defenders are overworked to the point of forced apathy.   Offenses that may have been justifiable receive sentences that are not justified.  The story itself is much more personal, characterwise, than the themes that I have mentioned above.  A multi-layered story with multiple themes makes for an interesting read. 

Publication Date: May 1, 2018
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
melvi yendra
I felt the subject matter is very interesting. Everyone now seems to be interested in both strippers and female prisoners. It's good I guess? But honestly, I think it should be handled with a lot of care, since peoples' lives aren't just something for hipster-y people to put beneath a microscope and have fun satisfying their curiosities, or trying desperately to infect humor into, where there is none organically. Not that this is what the author did exactly. I first tried the audiobook, but couldn't stand the author's voice, and it was also impossible to tell which of the characters was speaking, though I loved the first couple chapters which I heard on the audio. Therefore, I got my hands on the hardback. I couldn't wait for it to arrive. When it did, I re-read the first couple chapters. They were great and no, I couldn't put it down, and there were great insights and metaphors. However, what ruined it for me was when the author began (what seemed a lot like) trying really hard to make it quirky. A little bit of quirk is what makes a story great. But when the author seems to try too hard, and take it too far, and make the story unnecessarily detailed, I tend to lose my ability to suspend reality. I just became uninterested after those first couple chapters and couldn't read it anymore. The "try-hard" quality could have been something only I detected so feel free to read it yourself, it's gotten great reviews and been on NPR, etc. For me though, the humor has an exaggerated eager-to-please quality that doesn't fit well in comedy, as if it were a little desperate to ensure that everyone gets the joke. If that makes any sense. Not sure why I felt it necessary to write this review, I could have just skipped it. I guess I was just disappointed because the story seemed to have so much potential, and the reviews had been so great. And also to warn people that the audiobook was impossible to tell which of the characters is speaking, which would've made it unacceptable for me even without the voice grating on me.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ginna
Rating: 3.0/5.0

This is another nominee in the Man Booker 2018 longlist. I am honestly conflicted about this one. There are things I loved and things I felt did not work well. The story is about Romy Hall who is serving two life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility. She used to work in a strip club called The Mars Room. After she was sentenced her son Jackson is taken care of by her mother who is not on good terms with her. Through her story, we get to know how she deals with her life in the prison as well as her life before it.

The premise of the book is very interesting as we get to know how the life is behind the bars especially for women. The story is not solely about Romy as she meets other interesting characters too. I think the strip club part was intriguing too. I appreciate that the author kept the characters diverse and distinct at the same time. This made the reading somehow a better experience. However, I think the main flaw of this book is the constant jumps between the present and the past. I did not like this structure. It made the story somehow disjointed. The present did not connect well with the past. I don't know how to put it but the story because of this was not flowing properly. The fast jumps between the two time frames were just too much to handle. Another thing I did not get was the change in narration. The author kept changing from first person and third person a lot. This was too excessive to my taste to get me hooked to the book in a positive way.

The Mars Room had all the ingredients to be a five star reading for me be it an appealing story, diverse characters, and an overall interesting premise, however, the poor structure of the book and a shabby narration style prevented this book to be a favorite for me hence, I am going with just a good rating of 3.0 stars out of 5.0.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
andrea jones
Are you of the mind that each person must accept personal responsibility for how he or she leads their life, and that all that befalls them is of their own doing? Or, are you more inclined to think people, yes, must bear a certain degree of personal responsibility, but that they often have little control of many aspects of their lives, from formative years on into adulthood. In The Mars Room: A Novel, Rachel Kushner speaks to you in the latter group, but she also appeals to you among the formers. People, she seems to say, do not develop in a vacuum, do not live in one either. Society must accept some responsibility for how members turn out, because it’s society that bestows upon people crippling disadvantages and encouraging advantages. In The Mars Room, society as represented by our justice system, doesn’t come off very well when dealing with flawed people it has helped create.

The novel follows protagonist Romy Hall from the time she enters the California prison system. She had worked as a stripper and lap dancer at a club in San Francisco called The Mars Room to support herself and her child, Jackson. There, she attracted a clientele of men who requested her for lap dances, among them Kurt Kennedy, an ugly brute of a fellow with a leg damaged in a motorcycle accident. Kurt develops an imaginary relationship with Romy and begins stalking her, even after she leaves the Mars Room to avoid him. He finds her, though, and in a confrontation kills him by bashing in his brains. As a result of what she sees as incompetent legal representation by an assigned public defender, she receives two life sentences with added time, ensuring she will never leave prison. Not to put to fine a point on it, is this really justice?

From the prison bus to incarceration, Romy interacts with a variety of female prisoners all imprisoned for a variety of violent crimes, from robbery/murder to child murder. Kushner portrays everything about their treatment as dehumanizing and their accommodations as second rate, particularly in comparison to what they imagine men receive. Kushner doesn’t have to work too hard to accomplish this, just reproduce the signage and literature from prisons.

One day, Gordon Hauser appears on the scene. He, in addition to Kurt Kennedy, is a character with his own voice. Hauser, who has encountered difficulty in pursuit of his advanced degree, takes a job at the prison helping women interested earn their GEDs. Prison personnel, of course, deride him. As with all prison employees, at first he undervalues his charges and, like other employees, finds himself being manipulated by the women for their own purposes. Romy, he discovers, is different, an intelligent women who seems to want to learn. He orders her books via the store delivered directly to her, as prison rules forbid direct gifts. While Romy does enjoy the books, she hopes to learn about her son through him. At first resistant, he does deliver news to her that proves devastating and propels her into a desperate last act.

Kushner’s writing here conveys the rawness and brutality of the women’s lives but it is not without humor. If there is a message it’s that society has had a hand in creating these women and has chosen to banish them from its collective mind to a remote dismal prison into an equally dismal geography removed from sight and reach.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
corie
It took me a while to read The Mars Room because it's just so packed with sentences that challenged, amused, or painted a vivid picture. I felt as if I were right there on the bus, in the prison, and the seedy spots of San Francisco where the main character is from. Many times I put the book down and hoped that we as a country weren't doing the things that happen in the book, like involuntarily drugging inmates before their court hearings such that they couldn't advocate well for themselves (who am I kidding, we probably are.) There is a strong sense of unfairness throughout.

Eventually an outsider comes to the prison and I realized that he represents us, the readers, in that he just can't take the ongoing sadness the women's prison has to give. Like him, I wanted the despair I had chosen to witness to go away so I could go back to my life and try to forget it. It becomes a very tough read that will imprison you, so to speak. A little bit of hope might have been a good thing or maybe it would have ruined everything; I don't know. I do know the writing and characterization are top notch and will no doubt win something prestigious. For instance, there is a lot of description of prison life but it is woven in so well it never feels like a research dump. In fact, it's all pretty interesting, even if you thought you didn't need to know anything about, say, the wall clocks.

The photo on the front is refreshingly unusual cover for a book these days. Going by the credits in the back, it wasn't staged for this book, but wow it fits perfectly.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
shelly moody
The highly anticipated novel follows a young mother and exotic dancer who lives in San Francisco and Los Angeles and has been convicted of a horrible crime. She tells her story, the narrative entangling with some of the people she encounters, detailing life at prison, her life before, and how she got to where she is.

If you like Orange is the New Black, this is the book for you. I know that comparison will probably be all over the place, but this book really has a lot of the elements that I love about that show. Witty interesting characters shown to have layers and be real people behind all their banter, interesting prison insights, backstory, and even better, it doesn’t have Piper. (I’m sorry, but she’s so annoying!)

Instead, you’ll fall for the tough, smart Romy Hall, who doesn’t have a glamorous life, but does what she needs to get by. She doesn’t hold prejudices or punches and tells her story like it is without trying to make it pretty. I like her.

The main thrust of the plot following Romy was what I was most interested in and I loved her voice. I wanted to spend more time with this character! It took me a while to really get into the style of the short paragraphs and the back and forth of how she revealed her story, telling a small piece of it and then going off on a tangent about something entirely different before circling back, but though it dragged sometimes, I mostly liked it. It is a bit difficult to read in loonngg stretches.

But overall, I thought the narrative was a little scattered. The way it would jump between different characters narration was sometimes jarring and it took me a sentence or a paragraph to figure out who was talking and what part of the story they were telling. It felt like an unnecessary way to transition. Some of the characters felt a little extraneous and over-written to me, like I wasn’t sure why we were hearing from them at all (Ted Kaczynski?) and as their narratives were not all wound up within the book, those areas could have been trimmed.

The book also felt a little unfinished to me, like there is more that could have been gleaned from the themes of self-imposed isolation (what with all the Thoreau/Kaczynski/woodsy scenes) and the institutional isolation that Romy and the other inmates experience. I don’t know exactly what the book was trying to say about that. Perhaps it is there and I just didn’t get it!

But the book is also interested in injustice, gender in prison, and poverty and other socioeconomic factors that really do affect how the system runs. Too much is being taken on by the book and the narrative doesn’t cover any of it fully.

For me, the disjointed narrative and scattered style—jumping between first and third person, the difficulty in discerning who was speaking (or why they had a voice in the narrative at all), and other reasons really disconnected me from the text. I felt that it lacked the raw emotionality that should have (and could have) been conveyed by a book about such important topics as the realities and injustices of the justice system.

Not quite what I expected, but still a very interesting story by a talented and compelling writer.

My thanks to the publisher for sending me an advance copy of this book to read and review.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
mary terrani
The Mars Room is a book that I was highly anticipating. I was certain it was going to be one of my new favorite reads! And that leaves me wondering if my lukewarm reaction to it was a reflection of my too high expectations. Maybe it would have been a 4 star for me if I wasn’t so excited? I guess we’ll never know.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it was a decent book. It was fine. The character development and writing style worked for me. But what really saved the book for me was the setting, the author’s descriptions were dead on (I’m from the Central Valley of California so…), often making me feel like I was really there, like I was home. So, in many ways, it was the familiarity that I connected with.

Oddly, I feel a little guilty about not loving it. Like somehow I, the reader, missed out on something the first time around, and maybe I should try it again before making a final judgment. At least my expectations would be lower in a reread. Yeah, probably not gonna happen.

Ultimately, it was meh for me. Wanted to desperately to love it, but it just didn’t work out.

Note: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bev bjorklund
Rachel Kushner grabbed me in the first few pages of her novel titled, The Mars Room, and didn’t let go until the very end. Protagonist Romy Hall is heading to prison for a long time and we don’t know why for hundreds of pages. But we do get to know life inside prison to such an extent that I started to wonder how much time Kushner spent in prison or whether she ever worked as an exotic dancer as she describes working in the Mars Room. I’m confident that neither is the case, but those thoughts arise because of Kushner’s literary skills and the ways in which she draws us into places and into the lives of people that are deep and rich. Prison society, poverty and justice are all displayed by Kushner as her finely written prose takes readers to places and people we may not typically encounter in our lives.

Rating: Five-star (I love it)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lynnette
WOW. This is a tough book to review because the subject matter is deeply disturbing and it is a very bleak, sad book. I really sympathized with the main character Romy, because she never got a fair shot at life. The novel follows 29-year-old Romy as she is transferred to a new prison, where she is serving 2 consecutive life sentences plus 6 years. It also flashes back to the events that brought Romy to her present day situation. We also meet Hauser, a jailhouse teacher, and many other characters who you will feel varying degrees of sympathy.

Some of the book was tough to read and deeply disturbing. Once I started it I couldn't stop reading until it was finished, and then I was just numb and didn't know what I should be feeling. I highly recommend this book but it's not for the faint of heart or people who like uplifting stories.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rachel barkley
I listened to Rachel Kushner read her novel - she's both a wonderful writer and reader! This is a tragic story from beginning to end - a brilliant young girl somehow chooses the low life when she could have gone to college on a scholarship. Her narrative first person voice is compelling throughout. Romy's voice as the main character is sometimes subsumed by other characters. They're all tragic and hopeless and this is the darkest of poetry, but it sounds like poetry the way it flows so effortlessly. There is no hope here and Romy eventually has to accept that. The Washington Post gave this a rather bad review because it sounds so much like Orange is the New Black and because it's as much of a dead end as Sartre's No Exit. Still I think it's worth the time, especially listening to the author read it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
amy strait
The Mars Room begins with a bus ride as Romy Hall is transported to the prison where she will serve two consecutive life sentences. What her crimes are will be revealed later as will her life story. She grew up in San Francisco, not the city that tourists love but the seedy parts where a girl with no parents who care about her will roam the streets searching for what she does not know. Where a ten year old girl on the streets in the rain at midnight will accompany an older man to his hotel room when he offers her help, not knowing the price. Where she moves through a variety of men one of whom gives her the only joy in her life, her son Jackson. Where she spends her time working in the arid fields of sex work, her haunt the dance stage of the Mars Room.

Now her former life is stripped away, even her connection to her son. She must master and find a way to survive in a new universe as it is the only one she will know for the rest of her life. Some women will manage to leave but that is not Romy's fate. She forms relationships with some of the women there and shows occasional flashes of kindness but the safest way to live is with no connections that can tear and break what little is left of her heart.

Ruchel Kushner is one of the younger generation of novelists whose work has been singled out for praise. Her novels have been National Book Award nominees and finalists in many other literary recognitions. She has the ability to quickly catch the character of individuals whom are strangers to the reader but whose lives will sear their way into the brain, difficult to forget. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
pawl schwartz
Rachel Kushner’s prior books, particularly her National Book Award finalist THE FLAMETHROWERS, are almost relentlessly propulsive, full of scenes of movement and velocity. By contrast, her new novel, THE MARS ROOM, is at times almost stifling in its confinement. That is, of course, by design, since it is mostly set in a women’s prison, so its prose and pacing in many ways echo its setting and theme.

At the center of the book is Romy Hall, a former stripper who has been given two consecutive life sentences for murdering a man (who, we later learn, had been stalking her to the point that she moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles in large part to escape him). Romy’s case is emblematic of the flaws in the American justice system; her case is lost due to an incompetent, overworked public defender.

As the novel opens, Romy is being transported with several other inmates to the facility where, one assumes, she will spend the rest of her days. This van ride serves as a narrative device to introduce readers to numerous secondary characters, but it also sets the scene --- one woman quietly keels over and dies en route, and another one, merely a teenager, gives birth during the intake screening upon arrival. Both events are approached by the prison bureaucracy with either indifference or annoyance --- empathy is in short supply here, it seems.

Much of THE MARS ROOM illustrates Romy navigating the new social mores of prison society, which include complicated power dynamics among the women as well as various strategies for exploiting sympathetic men, from pen pals to prison guards to GED tutors. Some of the horrific and dehumanizing details included here will be familiar to viewers of “Orange is the New Black,” but that does not diminish their impact. These details of prison life alternate with episodes from other characters’ points of view, as well as with Romy’s flashbacks to her old life. Romy casts her mind back to her childhood and her more recent past doing lap dances at the Mars Room. But more than anything, her mind turns, again and again, to the whereabouts and well-being of her young son, as the months pass and her connection to him grows increasingly tenuous.

In THE MARS ROOM, Kushner addresses contemporary, vitally important issues of justice and prison reform, but also tackles timeless, universal themes through the lens of Romy’s story. What happens to humans when they are sequestered --- by force or by choice? What separates human civilization from chaos? What circumstances tip people into despair --- and how do they behave when they land there? Perhaps fittingly, given its pacing and tone, THE MARS ROOM is a deeply empathic, profoundly heartbreaking book that encourages readers to stop and ponder these questions and many more.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lydia kiesling
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner is a highly recommended drama set in a California women’s prison.

Romy Leslie Hall is serving two consecutive life sentences at the Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility in California's Central Valley because she killed a man. The man met her at The Mars Room, the strip joint in San Francisco where she worked, and was stalking her so she had to kill him. Now her mother has custody of her son, Jackson, and she is settling into prison life. Romy has always lived her life in the margins of society, using drugs, prostitution, committing crimes, and her guilt in never in question.

The guilt of the women she is imprisoned with is never in question either. Kushner follows the lives of the women and the treatment they receive from the guards and each other. She also explores all the details of life inside and how the women find a way to make their own society, of a sort. Along with Romy's story, and that of other women at Stanville, the lives of several other characters are explored in chapters, including Gordon Hauser, a GED teacher assigned to Stanville and "Doc," a dirty LAPD cop convicted of murder and in the Sensitive Needs block of New Folsom Prison. There are also included parts of the journal of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber.

First, this is technically, a very well written novel. It demonstrates the amount of research that went into writing it and captures the brutal reality of the system and how it often fails those living in poverty. So, while I would agree with all reviewers who feel that The Mars Room is a searing look at the lives of those born into poverty and demonstrates their struggles, even while turning to drugs and a criminal lifestyle, it also managed to get a bit wordy and off-track when adding in the stories of other people who were only marginally connect to Romy's story. The novel lacked a wee bit of focus, which made it lose some of its power.

My rating was going to be a simple recommended, until the ending, which I felt was perfect for the novel and made slogging through some if it worth the experience. When the focus is on Romy, her experiences, her story, her life, the novel does an exceptional job capturing the realities of her life, often eloquently. It is the extras that didn't significantly add to the totality of the novel for me.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Scribner
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
penumbra
Romy Hall was convicted of murder and is sentenced to two life terms in a prison in the California Central Valley. She grew up in San Francisco where she worked as a stripper in a club called The Mars Room. It quicky becomes apparent that she killed a man stalking her from the club. We discover her legal representation might have been lacking. We also discover she has a very young son named Jackson who she will likely never see again as a result of her incarceration. The book is really about her and the people in her life. This might include her fellow inmates or the man she killed. They are all well portrayed and what we discover is the inner emotional pull or makeup of this woman. It is a fascinating character study.
This is a literary novel that flirts with the crime fiction genre. It is much more character driven than a typical crime fiction novel. There is an element of suspense and we do not know exactly what Romy did until the very end. Rachel Kushner is one of the leading lights in the literary world and if you have not read her you would not be disappointed if you started with this one. This is a Man Booker longlist nominee and based on the British oddsmakers, is a longshot to win. However, it is well worth reading and is highly recommended
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
beatriz rodriguez
This is actually two tales. One of a woman, Romy, who is in jail falsely accused and the other is a dirty cop, I can't remember his name, he wasn't worth it, who fears for his life everyday because of the people he has confined to those bars. The book tells of prison life seen from the eyes of these two characters. In the case of the woman, the story was sad but at the same time interesting.

The book starts with Romy being transported from county jail to prison in a bus with other inmates. It's sad, but by the way the people are talking on this bus you can really see their lack of knowledge. It is somewhat entertaining though.

This book is nothing like OITNB or Wentworth (both shows I watch). However, it is probably more true to Wentworth if your looking for a correlation. There are sex scenes, although it's more talk about it than anything and nothing like the ones in OITNB.

It's a dirty, gritty story about life in prison. If your looking for something fun, this is not for you. However, if you ever wondered about the days and days in a shared cell, this is a real eye-opener.

I found it to be an excellent read and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I highly recommend it if your looking for real life grittiness.

Huge thanks to the great folks at Scribner and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jeff
I received an advance review copy of this book. All opinions are my own. My prediction is that this book will be one of the best books of 2018. One of the best books that I have read so far this year. Rachel Kushner is an author that never ever disappoints and she really nailed it with this story. The plot is strong and the story weaves here and there keeping your attention throughout the story. The characters are three dimensional and you will not be able to put this book down because you absolutely must know what happened. So yes this definitely needs to either join your digital library or it needs a prominent spot on your book shelf. Either way enjoy this wonderful and amazing book. Happy reading!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
shannon seehase
MAY 9, 2018 (EDIT)

Mini-Reviews: The May Fiction Edition
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
&
Alternative Remedies for Loss by Joanna Cantor

Novel Visits Mini-Reviews: The May Fiction Edition - The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner and Alternative Remedies to Loss by Joanna CantorSave

The Mars Room and Alternative Remedies for Loss have almost nothing in common. One is dark and very serious, the other is light with a humorous take. One is a debut, the other by an established author. In one I found hopefulness and in the other hopelessness. One is literary fiction, the other contemporary fiction. It could be argued that both are coming-of-age novels, but that would be a stretch. For me, the strongest commonality between these two May releases was grief. Grief suffered, grief endured by two very, very different young women.

Novel Visits Mini-Review The Mars Room by Rachel KushnerSaveThe Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
Publisher: Scribner
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Length: 352 pages
the store

From the Publisher: “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.”

My Thoughts: Let’s begin with what I liked most about The Mars Room and that can only be Rachel Kushner’s gorgeous writing. I highlighted many passages for many different reasons: striking imagery, overwhelming angst, startling revelations. Kushner does all that and more in this novel, moving it solidly into the literary fiction category.

With The Mars Room, Rachel Kushner tells the story of Romy Hall, a daughter, a stripper, and escort, a mother, a murderer. We meet Romy on the bus as she’s headed to Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility where she will serve out two consecutive life terms. As Kushner takes the reader deeper into Romy’s story, she reveals Romy’s past, her teen years in San Francisco, and her life as a stripper. We also see the other side of Romy, a not quite so tough young woman who wants more for her life and who very much loves her young son, Jackson. Of all the losses her prison sentence brings, none compare to loosing her son. The drudgery and terror of day-to-day life in prison also plays a large role in Romy’s story.

“Teardrop and Button, and other women around me, all working their Keaths: it was not the different from The Mars Room, except here they were preening and sellind their asses for prepackaged junk food. Or in Teardrop’s case, a bag of heroin.”

Had Kushner stuck with Romy, I’d have liked The Mars Room much more. Instead, she filled out her novel with the lives and crimes of the women Romy shared her life with at Stanville, and even prisoners in other facilities. While many of their stories were interesting in their own right, they also took up space that could have been dedicated to giving Romy a more complete story. The characters Kushner surrounded Romy with were rich in personality and shone a light (that I can only assume to be accurate) on prison life, but I was left with many unanswered questions about Romy herself.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
andrea woessner
This is the second Rachel Kushner novel that’s blown me away, and though I haven’t read her first, Telex From Cuba, I wouldn’t be surprised to be blown away by it too. Now she’s followed up her remarkable The Flamethrowers with The Mars Room, and it announces that Kushner is a literary writer who is making a mark in American fiction.

Up front, I have to admit that books (and TV and movies) about prison, and women in prison specifically, aren’t much my cup of tea. The research Kushner has done for this book, however, makes it feel almost like a documentary rather than a novel. Details such as signs on the prison walls (which you’d only know about if you visited the pen and took notes), jargon and slang used by both prison employees and inmates, and minutiae about life inside make the book much more fascinating than the typical prison story.

The novel focuses on the story of Romy Hall, a young woman from San Francisco who has apparently murdered a man and drawn a life sentence. It dips into other points of view too, which is welcome because Romy’s life has been depressing as hell and it’s good to get occasional breaks from the contents of her head. Kushner is adept at writing in both male and female points of view, coming up with insights on what it’s like in the mind of man that had me saying, “Wow, she’s nailed this.” Maybe a better way of putting it is that her imagination offers her access to any kind of PERSON she chooses to write about.

As someone who used to live in San Francisco, I was eating up her take on the seedier side of the town. I worked in the Inner Sunset district, where some of Romy’s wanderings lead her as a teen, and it’s entirely recognizable in the book. A lot of readers might have romanticized SF, but if you live there long enough you learn that it’s as gritty in some pockets as New York and has given birth to a lot of tragic lives. Kushner also gets the Tenderloin strip of Market Street right, site of the Mars Room strip club that gives the book its title. Seedy, gritty, smelly, mean. There used to be a Fascination parlor there (which I appreciate for my own reasons), and the old Greyhound station was around the corner on 6th Street. You could find it by the smell of the pee wafting from its doors. O nostalgia.

Read The Mars Room for its immersive story. Read it for its deep glimpse into life inside a high-security prison for women. Read it for the way it makes you look at unpleasant things. But most of all I hope a lot of readers pick this book up just to enjoy the top-notch writing. Kushner’s in full control of her tools and doesn’t phone things in.

In a way, The Mars Room is like a Dickens novel for the 21st century, and her writing holds up to that.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ellen chow yan yi
The Mars Room takes places in San Francisco, and the title refers to the name of the strip club our main character, Romy Hall, works at. This strip club is not your average strip club,it is the bottom of the barrel. The owners and managers care about one thing, and one thing only, MONEY!!!! One evening Romy's already shitty life, gets shittier. She is now a resident of Stanville Women's Correctional Facility. Life in prison is her new reality, shes been sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. This is her story.

This book had potential. I am a huge fan of OITNB & Wentworth. Do not go into this book expecting similarities!!! This was a slow read for me. I did not feel emotionally connected to any of the characters. Partially because the author jumped between characters and storylines more than necessary. I was able to appreciate the many socioeconomic factors and the affects on the main character.

I wanted to like this book. It took me a little longer than expected because I had to force myself to keep pushing through. This one just wasn't for me.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sarah pitts
I kept telling myself I was going to stop reading for about a hundred pages. So terribly bleak, scuzzy people, "low lifes." Everything I don't want to be or know. But the writing is so powerful. And at some point I was simply hooked on Romy, the protagonist. I never imagined a happy ending and I didn't get one. But I got to read a terrific, compelling, unusual novel. Well worth slogging through my initial ambivalence. Remarkably well written.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
pete schwartz
Some the store reviewers called this book "a page turner." I object to that characterization. It is a deeply engrossing, but very serious account of a woman's life and her imprisonment. Yes, I was sorry to put it aside each time I had to stop reading it to do something else, and, yes, I hated to see it end. But to me "page turner" connotes what some might term "an easy read," or a light entertainment.
The events and lives depicted in this book are sordid and in many ways disturbing, but the writing is so excellent that I read it as if it had appeared magically on the page with no author involved. Obviously Kushner wrote it, but she has not left any distractions behind. Just the story that flows from character to character and into the reader's head like a piece of music. I recommend it highly.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
seher
Both literary and a suspenseful page-turner.

Most good writing makes the strange familiar and the familiar strange---assuming you are not in prison reading this book, The Mars Room does both, but especially the former---evoking compassion you didn't know you had.

Like Toni Morrison and Joyce Carol Oates, Kushner explores how your environment, your time in history, when, where and how you were born, shape (warp) your life.

A really really good read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dean liapis
Romy Hall is the you you could have been had you grown up in the same circumstances. Her life was never on the rails, so it never went off them. Her story is one which could be anyone’s, anyone who is marginalized in society, who, despite intelligence, never had a chance to flower-her hope was nipped in the bud. She made her way the only way she knew how. And the people she met have their stories too, they all have complex reasons they are what they are and do what they do. As we all do. I love this story, like all good books, it makes you one of the characters, living through their experiences. After you finish it, you may not be happy, but you have grown.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
mallory kasdan
Umm...not. I got the CD, read by the author. Her voice is pleasant and the sentences are well-written. However, it never got to me emotionally, except, I have to say, to make me depressed. I slogged through it, because the subject matter was interesting and important, but sadly, I never felt truly interested, amused, or deeply, emotionally touched. That's what I look for in a book: great writing that ALSO touches me.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
cessie
This is a dark, depressing, and somewhat confusing novel. I wanted to like Romy but the best feeling I could work up with was pity. The writing in the book is very good, showing the gritty side of life that I hope I never experience firsthand. But it’s the jumping around in time, place, and point of view that ultimately disappointed me. I would have rathered the author stick to Romy’s story more.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
orieyenta
Summary: Following the stream-of-consciousness of a few different characters, this is mostly the story of Romy Hall, who is serving two consecutive life sentences in the California State prison system. Kushner’s story slips back and forth between the now and the past, so the reader slowly learns about how Ms. Hall ended up where she did. It is a gritty, realistic book that gives a fairly accurate view (as I’ve heard from prison inmates) of what women’s prison is like.

My Thoughts: I started listening to this right after it made the Booker Prize shortlist. Although I understand perfectly why it made the shortlist (the writing style is superb), I wasn’t overly impressed with the story. Don’t get me wrong…I had emotional investment in Ms. Hall, and felt the other characters were realistic and well-written. And I think Kushner achieved exactly what she set out to do: flawlessly executing the stream-of-consciousness style. I was just in the mood for a story with more plot. But this book wasn’t about plot. It was a book about character and setting. And the characters and setting were superbly written. So I will still give the book 4 stars, even though it wasn’t what I was in the mood for.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
dene
'The Mars Room' is a very well written account of a trashy young woman from San Francisco who finds herself in prison for murder. Although the book is listed as fiction it felt so real. The author does a stellar job of capturing the essence of this woman, who is decidedly not likable. The same goes for her acquaintances and fellow inmates. So much to dislike but the raw honesty of the book is to be admired. The biggest letdown was the ending, which wasn't satisfying at all.

Bottom line: overall an extremely admirable effort by an obviously very talented author. Recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
matt graven
There are some things about the criminal justice system, either on a state or federal level, that most people wouldn't even think to wonder about unless they were in the middle of them; it's amazing the amount of knowledge one can learn, after committing a crime. I began highlighting passages in The Mars Room within the first five pages and I ended up with over thirty items; it is now nearly impossible to select my favorites.

"Everything in prison is addressed to the woman for whom the red wedge is painted on the clock face, the imbecile. I’ve never met her. Plenty I have met in prison cannot read, and some cannot tell time, but that doesn’t mean they are not shrewd and superior individuals who can outsmart any egghead. People in prison are clever as hell. The imbecile the rules and signs are meant to address is nowhere to be found."

Romy Hall, the central voice of The Mars Room, is a former dancer at a strip club on Market Street in San Francisco. She is serving two life sentences, plus an additional six years, for attacking and killing a regular who began shadowing her on his Harley, turning up at her local market and, when she moved to Los Angeles to get away from him, on her front porch. The night she encountered him there, her young son, Jackson, was asleep in her arms; the extra six years on her sentence were for endangering a minor.

Instead of focusing on Romy's story, Kushner carefully introduces other characters with ties to the California Department of Corrections: attorneys, visitors, correctional officers, and victims. While some would argue will argue differently, I do not consider The Mars Room a "prison novel," per se; rather, it is a novel about the way in which individuals are affected by the prison system and a reminder that many, outside of the inmates, carry a life sentence on their shoulders.

"Much discussion among the women about the scum of the earth who worked as guards. He did not have the courage, or maybe it was the will, to ask if these women had ever known a prison guard. And why would he defend prison guards? He hated them himself. But if a person got outside their own bubble they would see that prison guards were poor people without reasonable options. One had just blown his head off in a guard tower at Salinas Valley. He could have told them this, engaged in corrective arguments with these women at the party. But wasn’t it obvious?"

Kushner's writing is phenomenal; the details are authentic and the characters are humanized in a way that detracts from the dehumanization of their environment. This isn't Orange is the New Black which, in my opinion, is playacting and tailored to the masses; this is what prison life is like, for the majority, and Kushner's sources definitely shared an accurate image of their experiences.

It's a dark, often heartbreaking tale, but it's worth soaking in because it is a world most will never discover, unless the proportion of incarcerated individuals continues to climb at its current rate. This won't be enjoyed or appreciated by everyone, and I can understand that; maybe it's like a certain type of inside joke: I guess you just had to be there.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
jakob moll
Sentenced to two consecutive life sentences, Romy Hall enters the correctional system in California and meets a wide variety of people in Rachel Kushner's The Mars Room. 

Serving out her two life sentences in Stanville Women's Correctional Facility in California, Romy Hall is separated from her young son Jackson and everything familiar in San Francisco. Thrown into the deep end, Romy learns the things she needs to do and understand in order to survive inside the system. Meeting different women, committed for a variety of crimes, Romy comes to understand the oddities and intricacies of interactions and relationships within the confines of institutionalized life.

Roaming far too much through various characters with little relevance to Romy's life, as well as in time, a cohesive narrative is difficult to achieve, making it easy to put down as the disjointed nature of this narrative frustrates - it left me thinking SO WHAT!? It's clear that a lot of research and care went into the writing, but the outcome feels detached instead of evocative. This novel does a good job of offering diverse characters and pointing out the harsh realities of life within the correctional system, which are often overlooked, and how socioeconomics plays a role in it; however, there's no real sense of connection between the characters presented, which leaves the point being made lack a more powerful punch due to the impersonality of the stories offered.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
darci
A very descriptive and compelling story about what women face to survive in the prisons and underbelly of our society. It shows what happens when you don’t have the resources to fight your case and you are at your wits end in dealing with a creepy stalker. Very timely with the Pardon that Trump just gave to that female prisoner at the behest of Kim Kardashian-West
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ade maria
A gifted writer I am so grateful to have discovered! Kushner writes a story of hard luck people living life as best they can. She uses humor and compassion to make you really care about the fate of these characters, who seem so real. I finished this book and cried for all of us. It is a heart wrenching, beautiful story of our shared humanity.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
robyn
Don't get all the hype about this move. The book is all research and no feeling. Very sparse explanations of how Romy ended up where she did. No explanation of why her mother named her Romy other than that Romy Schneider the actress (not sure Kushner even includes her last name) said something provocative about a bank robber on a German TV talk show in 1974; the timing seems off given that Romy the character was in middle school in 2006. The Romy Schneider anecdote appears twice and Romy's mother is described as being German but I would bet most wouldn't know who Romy Schneider was so the whole name thing seems rather precious and show-offy. The Ted Kasyncski excerpts also seems forced; just because Hauser the teacher lives in a cabin in the mountains there are to my mind no substantial relations between them. I kept reading the book for information about prison but Romy's life and future seem preordained by the research Kushner did and seems to revel in: street drugs, cars, sex work, prison rules, etc. I didn't get any emotional effect at all. A big disappointment. Seems like the good reviews were based mostly on the lurid details.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
deenah byramjee
Interesting story about a young woman who had a hard life and ends up in prison. It also depicts a seedy side of San Francisco. I’m not sure the interspersing of the ramblings of the Unabomber really added to the story. There are several side stories in the book but I found the young mothers experience in prison the most engaging.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mehrbanoo
I listened to the book and the author herself narrated. Her voice was vulnerable, knowing, hypnotic. I was transfixed throughout. She is a masterful writer and the story of a basically innocent woman (who killed in self defense and had an inept defense lawyer) serving an interminable sentence makes you wonder about the parallel universes in our society in which justice is a travesty. I don't share what I assume is the author's sympathy for the more brutal characters and I believe that retribution has important social value but at the very least, we must run our institutions with integrity. And the prison system, too often, is a corrupt hell.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nick dewilde
Multiple characters flesh out the story while the jumping back and forth in time can be confusing at first. The seedier side of life feels real and gritty. The descriptions of prison are spot in. Most accused people follow her course without legal help or institutional empathy. Good character development.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
adam szymkowicz
I liked it - eventually. Lots of trauma and violence - generally not my thing as I get enough of that at work (psychologist) but eventually hooked in by the complex social structures. Wish it had a happier ending.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
hannah grover
Willy-Nilly - adverb or adjective \ wil·ly-nil·ly \ ˌwi-lē-ˈni-lē \ in a haphazard or spontaneous manner.
•••
Haphazard. That is the perfect word to describe the style and structure of The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner (pub date 5/1).
•••
Romy Leslie Hall is serving two life sentences for murdering her alleged stalker. Her past in the back alleys of San Francisco as a stripper at The Mars Room, “the very seediest and most circus-like place there is”, is revealed (willy-nilly style) as she navigates her first few years of incarceration.
•••
This book is cobbled together meanderings and stream of consciousness wanderings. Here’s a section in the first-person about one of the inmates, then a third-person chapter about Richard Nixon performing at the Grand Ole Opry, then a section about a murderous man in the woods, oh and then here’s a section about a male inmate at another prison. Everything is cobbled together in such a random way it’s difficult to latch onto any one thing.
•••
Having said all of that, I didn’t hate it. Prison culture is always interesting. As a fan of Orange is the New Black and The Shawshank Redemption, I am intrigued by stories of incarceration, a way of life that is completely foreign to me. The Mars Room taught me about toilet mail and contraband cucumbers among other colorful things, so now I have that added knowledge going for me.
•••
The Mars Room lacks focus, but it was still an entertaining look at the grimy side of San Francisco.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
g0ldil0x
I just finished reading The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner. It's a well written and absorbing book. However, I waited weeks to read it because I was troubled by Kushner's behavior at an event I attended where she was interviewed by Jonathan Franzen.

The event was very crowded and many people took numerous photos of Ms. Kushner. One older man was told he had to wait at the end of the signing line since he had a lot of books to get signed. When the line had dwindled to about a dozen, the man took out his camera to take a photo of Ms. Kushner. She told him not to photograph her. He apologized and put his camera way. He didn't take her photograph.

When it was his turn, the older man greeted Ms. Kushner and attempted to initiate a friendly chat. She scolded him for taking her picture without her permission. He apologized again and said that he did not take her picture when she said not to. She told the man to wait and then entered into a prolonged conversation with a young man who had just entered the store with one old and worn paperback copy of her first book he had come to get signed.

Finally, there were no more people waiting, and Ms. Kushner began to sign the older man's copies of The Mars Room. After she signed three or four copies, she asked why the man had so many copies. He said he had ten copies and they were for the members of his book club. Ms. Kushner angrily interrupted him and demanded to know why the other book club members hadn't come to her event. He said it was because he had selected the book and lived over 50 miles away. She refused to sign any more copies and sarcastically asked him if that was enough. He replied that most of the book club members would be very disappointed. She said she needed time to sign the book store's copies. The man then left. He clearly was very upset.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
bossrocker
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-April.

Coarse, moment to moment narration, as well as themes of rumination and a rapid stream of consciousness that filters back and forth randomly through countess interactions and memories from the past and present about Romy Hall, a female convict and former stripper at a club called the Mars Room.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kirstin cole
Beautifully written prose, with chilling and crystal-clear characters. Especially coming from CA, which has a spinal chord of prisons strung along the length of our state, we need to understand more about how and why so many of our people are in prison. Learn about life inside, how people think inside, and what kind of men and women make up the prison system.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
craig williams
This book was a bit disjointed with the story hopping back and forth between the main character Romy, and all the other characters' narratives. But! I loved reading this. I enjoyed the descriptions of San Francisco and the characters' personalities. This was another very well written book that I recommend without reservation. It is not the happiest story you'll ever read but it is interesting and well worth the time .
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
taylor yeagle
I could not get into this book, and I really tried because the blurb really called out to me. The book was back and forth, all over the place and just did not grab my interest so I ended up giving up 1/4 way into it - there are too many books and not enough time to read them all to waste my time forcing myself to read on and on a book that I am not enjoying!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
holli blackwell
I honestly don’t know why I forced myself to finish this book. There were parts that sparked my interest a little, but it was fleeting. The book jumps back and forth between Romy’s life out of prison and serving two life sentences in prison. It’s basically a super tame, less interesting completely fiction rip off of Orange is the New Black. OITNB set the bar too high and this book fell very short. Disappointing all the way around.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
jessica thomson
Ugly writing about ugly, dismal circumstances without hope. Why would I want to immerse myself in such surroundings? What could I possibly hope to gain that would in any way enrich my life or my mind? I stopped reading. I leave it to other reviews, access to which might inform you, the reader of mine, about whether that changes enough to warrant continuing.
Please Rate The Mars Room: A Novel
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