Title: A Room Called Earth
Author: Madeleine Ryan
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Page Count: 304
As a full moon rises over Melbourne, Australia, a young woman gets ready for a party. And what appears to be an ordinary night out is–through the prism of her singular perspective–extraordinary. As the evening unfolds, each encounter she has reveals the vast discrepancies between what she is thinking and feeling, and what she is able to say. And there’s so much she’d like to say. So when she meets a man and a genuine connection occurs, it’s nothing short of a miracle. However, it isn’t until she invites him home that we come to appreciate the humanity beneath the labels we cling to, and we can grasp the pleasure of what it means to be alive.
The debut novel from the inimitable Madeleine Ryan, A Room Called Earth is a humorous and heartwarming adventure inside the mind of a bright and dynamic woman. This hyper-saturated celebration of love and acceptance, from a neurodiverse writer, is a testament to moving through life without fear, and to opening ourselves up to a new way of relating to one another.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars ★★★★★
A Room Called Earth is a fantastic book, and I am absolutely in love with Madeleine Ryan and her writing. I originally read this book back in June, but I’ve struggled with writing this review because I feel as though nothing I say could possibly do this book justice. It’s a story you really have to read for yourself in order to truly grasp and understand, and the book itself is one that I have come to hold near and dear to my heart. I find myself reading it over and over again, and each time I do, I find something new that I hadn’t noticed before. There are so many pieces of this story that resonated with me. As a fellow neurodivergent person with an inner monologue similar to the one of the main character in this story, this book makes me feel SEEN.
The writing style is impeccable. This was my first experience with stream-of-consciousness writing, and Ryan has blown away every single expectation that I had. The plot, though it seems so simple on the surface, is such a journey. I loved how the narrator seemed to have such strong reactions to everything going on around her; how every single action or observation seemed to have a story or adventure all its own. Something as simple as walking down the street sparks something magical within our main character’s mind: it could be a memory, a hypothetical situation, or simply just a string of thoughts. This book brings life to the everyday, the mundane, the small things that many people tend to brush off as “boring”. And though we never even learn the main character’s name, we still get to know her, and we can clearly understand that she is someone who knows herself, and she invites the reader to immerse themselves in her version of the world through sensual descriptions and intellectual observations.
There’s also the OwnVoices aspect to consider. A Room Called Earth is written from the point of view of an autistic woman, and author Madeleine Ryan herself is also autistic. When it comes to neurodiversity in media, the way it’s represented is extremely important because not only are people still extremely uninformed about autism and other forms of neurodivergency, and books, movies, and television shows are notorious for regurgitating outdated, inaccurate, and harmful tropes and stereotypes that we have to fight so hard to push back against.
While every autistic person is different in terms of the way they perceive the world and communicate with what’s around them, it was refreshing to read about an autistic person that was confident with themselves, who was self-aware, who wanted to socialize, and who spoke so freely and honestly about their emotions, their limitations, and their passions. These are traits that autistic people in mainstream media are almost never associated with, and this is mostly because they’re usually written by allistic people who don’t truly understand or empathize with the mindset of autistic individuals. And, to be honest, I was extremely disappointed to see reviews from readers who had taken these things and found a way to paint them in a negative light simply because it was coming from the thought process of an autistic character. In reference to the ongoing inner monologue (keep in mind it is a stream-of-consciousness book), one Goodreads reviewer wrote: “If this is what autistic individuals deal with on a daily basis, then my heart goes out to them.” It reminds me that we still have a long way to go before we truly see the day where neurological differences are truly accepted and celebrated. There is strength in our differences, and just once, I would like to see a neurotypical person acknowledge this rather than immediately jumping to pity or brushing us off as “rude” or “anti-social” or “self-centered”.
This book is everything that it is described to be– an unforgettable story of a fiercely original young woman, whose radical perspective illuminates a new way of being in the world. It’s a phenomenal piece of literature and the impact it had on me will stay with me for a very long time. If you enjoy stream-of-consciousness books, intimate inner monologues, and a point of view that strays from the neurotypical mindset, then I highly recommend this book. As a debut author, Madeleine Ryan did a phenomenal job, and I look forward to reading any work she may publish in the future.
Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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