What a difficult, heart breaking, devastating novel I finished it last night and was speechless with emotions that s how much I loved it I slept on it and still am pretty much flabbergasted how can I describe the devastating reality happening in The Mars Room and all the roads that lead to and from it It is a story that switches between a few different narrators which are ultimately connected in strange and almost blink and you miss it ways The Mars Room is as much a tale about the experience of being female and living in poverty as it is about prison life in America Kushner spent time in prisons and displays an extraordinary knowledge of life inside told honestly and with no prettification.Shattering masterpiece, tragic and funny and nothing like you ve read before. Found the book beyond bleak Bought it for a book club and two members could not even finish it It felt like the author was creating a world of misery and poverty for no other reason that to self indulge in the idea of it While the portrayal of the American Legal System may be reasonably accurate, it did not envoke any feeling except utter misery while reading Unless you want to read a fiction book which makes you feel nothing but misery and no hope for a single character within in a book, I would recommend never buying this book. This book is a series of horror stories The stage is the US prison system and the cruelty and violence is unrelenting but never fails to shock the reader, even the most cynical of us who knows that US prisons are not about rehabilitation and that deprivation of one s liberty is just the start of punishment The novel begins with a shocking opening where women prisoners are shackled both by the ankles and wrists during a move between prisons The prisoner who is about to give birth is given no special treatment because of a technicality because she has not been medically examined she is not officially pregnant and another morbidly obese prisoner who collapses is left lying on the floor of the vehicle because it is too much trouble for the prison staff to intervene Kushner does not attempt to show us the prisoners are nice people Many are killers and one even killed her own child That said, the prison staff too are brutalized by a regime which ignores everyone s humanity Prisoners families are subjected to a humiliating series of petty rules when they visit, even down to being told what items of clothing they should and should not wear Many years ago I worked for an organisation which helped the families of prisoners As part of the job I took volunteers on prison visits, to give them an idea of how the system works In the UK life prisoners are not routinely shackled and I met prison officers who had very good relationships with long term prisoners and were happy to eat meals prepared by them as I and my volunteer colleagues did I met others in a different prison who distrusted even short term prisoners who were incarcerated for short periods The open prison system in the late 1990s was clearly very different from the closed one at Barlinnie Glasgow where, as late as 1997 prisoners were slopping out and closed visits were routine The staff themselves undoubtedly had a harder job because of the constraints of the building and the lack of facilities Barlinnie was so overcrowded prisoners could only watch thirty minutes of television at any one time, no matter when the programme ended, causing a lot of disgruntlement All this seems as nothing compared with the picture Kushner paints of US prisons I found Kushner s prison novel compelling yet utterly bleak Kushner is a novelist, not a politician or prison reformer but I cannot help but think the novel has to be saying something and something very bad about the state of prisons in the US in the twenty first century. I found this a compelling read Its exposure of inequality in the justice system of the United States is striking, but expressed with a degree of humour The use of different voices in the narration added to the tenor of the book, but that of Romy Hall remained central throughout Rachel Kushner a writer new to me clearly is a leading figure in contemporary fiction As George Sanders wrote in the book s blurb, I don t know how she is able to know so much and convey it all in such a completely entertaining and mesmerising way. Okay, Brilliant in its genre, if it s a genre you like very american style, detailed, evocative of place, grimy but not for me because of the attention to detail and constant asides to backstory didn t contribute enough to the bigger story, so that I eventually got bored by the detail and didn t really want to finish it. This is a gorgeously written book about a terribly sad life Romy Hall is a girl with no real chance Her heart breaking story, and those of her fellow inmates in the penitentiary , brings into focus the shabby side of the penal system where the cards are stacked against the poor and the vulnerable in society This is a sobering tale, told in raw, uncompromising language which completely befits the subject Unputdownable and unforgettable. SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER From the author of internationally acclaimed The Flamethrowers a fearless and heartbreaking novel about love, friendship and incarcerationRomy Hall is starting two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women s Correctional Facility Her crime The killing of her stalker Inside awaits a world where women must hustle and fight for the bare essentials Outside the San Francisco of her youth The Mars Room strip club where she was once a dancer Her seven year old son, Jackson As Romy forms friendships over liquor brewed in socks and stories shared through sewage pipes her future seems to unfurl in one long, unwavering line until news from beyond the prison bars forces Romy to try and outrun her destiny Kushner is one of our most outstanding modern writers STYLIST More knowing about prison life than Orange Is The New Black so powerful NEW YORK TIMES Breathtaking VOGUE This sounded so interesting, however I am deeply disappointed I kept reading, hoping that there would be a point to the monotone of facts Despite the characters leading eventful lives, the book was written in such a disjointed way I couldn t engage and I found it hard to finish the book I feel cheated that I paid so much for a book that was a waste of time. The writing is strikingly crystal clear, free of judgement, free of embellishment.With this very pure style the book puts across a powerful message of the fragility between being on the right or wrong side of society We devastatingly learn how easily a human being can end up on the wrong side, helplessly deprived of the most intrinsic part of their existence A painfully beautiful ode to motherhood emerges without even trying. I struggled through to half way and it was a struggle I found the storyline quite haphazard and I couldn t get into the book at all.