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A Room Called Earth Review

A Room Called Earth by Madeleine Ryan

An autistic woman heads to a party and reflects on her life and the nature of human interaction. She is unable to express herself to the party guests she encounters until she meets a man she makes a connection with and invites him to her home.


Contemporary, neurodiversity


As a full moon rises over Melbourne, Australia, a young autistic woman gets ready for a party. What appears to be the start of an ordinary night out, though, is, through the prism of her mind, extraordinary. As the events of the night unfold, she moves from person to person, weaving a web around the magical, the mundane, and the tragic. She's charming and witty, with a touch of irreverence; people can't help but find her magnetic. However, each encounter she has, whether with her ex-boyfriend or a woman who wants to compliment her outfit, 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.

When she meets a man in line for the bathroom, and the possibility of intimacy and genuine connection occurs, it's nothing short of a miracle. It isn't until she invites him home, though, and into her remarkable world that we come to appreciate the humanity beneath the labels we cling to, to grasp, through her singular perspective, the visceral joy of what it means to be alive.

From the inimitable mind of Madeleine Ryan, an outspoken advocate for neurodiversity, A Room Called Earth is a magical and miraculous adventure inside the mind of an autistic woman. Humorous and heartwarming, and brimming with joy, this hyper-saturated celebration of acceptance is a testament to moving through life without fear, and to opening ourselves up to a new way of relating to one another.


This is written in a stream-of-consciousness style, so rather than a straightforward narrative we get a look into the narrator’s train of thought. At any moment her thoughts may jump to the past or reflect on a fact she read about. Interspersed in this narration is dialogue with no narration attached to it.

It’s a quirky style and takes some getting used to, but the narration suits it perfectly. In fact, it suits the autistic experience perfectly. Many times autistic people have rich inner thoughts but are unable to express themselves in a way others can understand. By having the woman’s thoughts narrate the story, and not narrating the body language that takes place during dialogue, the reader can get an understanding of the contrast between the inner world and the outer world an autistic person experiences. It helps that the author herself is autistic and so understands this firsthand.

It is a story of authenticity and self-acceptance. The narrator reflects on the lengths people go to be socially acceptable, but she herself has embraced her identity and lives as she wants to. She rolls in the rain and mud in front of someone she is making a budding relationship with because it makes her happy and she wants to live her life unrestrained by expectations. In today’s society, this approach may be deemed radical, but the narrator enriches her life this way, even if she may be more isolated from those around her. Her connections are rare, but when she finds someone she can connect with it is a deep and complex bond rather than a superficial one.

This is a philosophical contemporary novel written in a narration style that is unique and pulled off wonderfully.

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