My Mini Review + Favorite Quotes From… The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

Title: The Mars Room
Author: Rachel Kushner
Original Publication Date: May 01, 2018
Genre(s): Fiction, Contemporary

Goodreads Synopsis: 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 Mini Review

The Mars Room had so much potential that it could’ve but, didn’t reach. Romy Hall was incredibly relatable for me but, I don’t see her being that way for many others. She was a dancer at a strip club (before prison) and her tween-teen years were drug and alcohol-filled like mine.

I wish with all my heart this could have been told in chronological order instead of backwards. There were too many other POVs included that I expected to mean more than they actually did. Why couldn’t we just stay with Romy throughout the whole novel? Everything else seemed like filler that I couldn’t wait to get through. The non-Romy chapters took so much away from the book.

The writing was beautiful but, the story was oh so, messy.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Dates Read: March 11-March 21, 2019

My Favorite Quotes

“Sometimes what other people want is wantable, briefly, before dissolving in the face of your own wants.”

I knew from lap dancing that grinding was easier than talking. Everyone is different when it comes to personal standards and what they can offer. I cannot pretend to be friends. I didn’t want anyone to know me.

“Some girls at the Mars Room wanted regulars and were always looking to cultivate them. I didn’t, but I ended up with one anyways.

“People say it’s beautiful, but the beauty is only visible to newcomers, and invisible to those who had to grow up there.”

“I knew that for everyone else in the world the Golden Gate Bridge was considered something special, but to me and my friends it was nothing. We just wanted to get wasted.

“I don’t plan on living a long life. Or a short life, necessarily. I have no plans at all. The thing is you keep existing whether you have a plan to do so or not.”

“The years I spent getting high and reading library books I do no regret. It wasn’t a bad life, even if I would probably never go back.

“If you have never tried heroin I have news for you: It makes you feel good about yourself, especially in the beginning. It makes you feel good about other people. You want to give the whole world a break, a time-out, a tender regard. There is nothing so soothing.

‘This is a pins and needles high,’ he’d said. ‘It’ll grab you by the back of the neck.’ It grabbed me by the back of the head with its firm clench, rubber tongs, then warmth spread down through me. I broke into the most relaxing sweat of my life. I fell in love. I don’t miss those years. I’m just telling you.

“These women and their bogus standards, that you can sell your ass but don’t date janitors.”

“You think it’s a surprise a girl who works at a strip club is clever? Every stripper I know is clever. Some are practically geniuses.

“We had to fake nice-nice to the customers but that was really it, the only thing we had to do, and we didn’t even have to do that. We did it to make money, so the incentive was easy enough.

“She was already buzzed, she told us, slurring her words in a way I found glamorous.

“Some kids have a powerful drive to take drugs. They can’t help it.

“That was what beauty was, he supposed, when someone’s face stirred feelings.

“A man could say every day that he wanted to change his life, was going to change it, and every day the lament became merely a part of the life he was already living, so that the desire for change was in fact a kind of stasis that allowed the unchanged life to continue.

“They believed you had to put on a good show and buy expensive costumes because it was more dignified and professional, respectful of some standard they wanted to uphold. But most of us worked in that environment because we were the kind of people who did not believe in standards and would never try to uphold any.”

“I found the track pants type preferable. There was almost no work involved. No smiling, no fake personality, no pretend complicity. They moved you around how they wanted and you didn’t have to exert yourself, and for twenty dollars per song.”

“You can’t believe anything people say. But what they say is all you have.

“I’d eased myself into the hustle of having a regular. I was by instinct against it, but it had presented itself as a novel certainty. He would be there on my shift. He would choose me automatically.

“But she sulked a lot, and he realized quiet people can control you just as effectively as loud ones. They do it differently is all.”

Looking at someone who is looking at you was a drug as strong as any other.

“The rhythms of the world did not always coordinate with the rhythm of the person.”

11 thoughts on “My Mini Review + Favorite Quotes From… The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

  1. I was kinda interested in this one, but so far most reviews i’ve seen agreed that it was quite meh.
    Sometimes so much depends on the execution. I read only one story that was told backwards, and frankly, it was annoying 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just finished reading Mars Room and I agree with you. It had waaaaaay too many points of view and side stories. Should’ve stuck to just her. I liked hearing about her experiences in San Francisco and in the prison, but could’ve lived without the rest of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yesss, I’m so glad you agree. I thought maybe things would align & there would be some sort of big reveal at the end but there never was?? I liked hearing about her experiences in San Fran & in prison a lot more, too.


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