The Mars Room

The Mars Room

Book - 2018
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"From twice National Book Award-nominated Rachel Kushner, whose Flamethrowers was called "the best, most brazen, most interesting book of the year" (Kathryn Schulz, New York magazine), comes a spectacularly compelling, heart-stopping novel about a life gone off the rails in contemporary America. 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. Stunning and unsentimental, The Mars Room demonstrates new levels of mastery and depth in Kushner's work. It is audacious and tragic, propulsive and yet beautifully refined."--
Publisher: New York, NY :, Scribner,, 2018.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9781476756554
Branch Call Number: FICTION Kushner Rachel 04/2018
Characteristics: 338 pages ;,24 cm


From Library Staff

List - Kari's Top Ten from 2018
JCLKariE Dec 21, 2018

Romy is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Correctional Facility. How and why she's in prison is slowly revealed. The writing is crisp, sharp, and effortless. This story goes places I did not expect and is all the better for it.

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: thou... Read More »

Mohr recommends this one "if you like degenerate lit."

JCLKariE May 14, 2018

I dare you to try and do anything other than read this absorbing novel. The Mars Room wears you down. You'll feel despondent and upset for these horrible women who did awful things. Kushner's obviously done meticulous research to get this story just right. The characters are fleshed out complete... Read More »

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Jan 18, 2019

She portrayed the lives, so intense for me (not a masochist) to experience, behind bars and in one’s mind, which would be otherwise beyond my imagination farther away than Mars.
All the characters, including ones with short appearances and three straight males, composed a somber collage full of dark
humor. Each has its own right to live in the book, without dazzling the vision.
I had a minor problem with the order of narrations (mostly monologues of Romy). A convenient vehicle to tell the story? To a less interested reader, the structure may be felt impulsive and disjointed.
The book touched many subjects of the society and environment we live in, never geared up to analyze. I’m deeply drawn to author (Romy)’s perception of (old / another side of) San Francisco and “man-made hell”.
Amor Fati!

Jan 13, 2019

Novel about women in prison doesn't seem written as much as born, or witnessed. Unapologetic, frank, utterly believable and compelling, Kushner goes beyond empathy or flashiness to just show you. Memorable.

Nov 28, 2018


DPL_Graham Nov 02, 2018

One of the many dangers of working as a stripper at “The Mars Room” in San Francisco is stalkers. You never know who might find you fascinating, feeding you crisp $20s until suddenly $20s aren’t enough and obsession turns into and watching every moment of life. Riding the bus or getting groceries, the man on the motorcycle is watching.

“The Mars Room” is tale of Romy Hall’s life growing up rough in the Bay Area, working “The Mars Room” and her life in an all-Women’s prison sentenced to life for murder. Tough, mean, sad, touching, and thrilling in turn, the Mars Room lifts you into a seedy world of prison politics. You may feel familiar with the atmosphere if you’ve spent any time watching “Orange is the New Black.” Still, this isn’t a rip-off of the show or book, just a revisiting of familiar subject matter. The characters are vivid, guards horrid, living conditions squalid, and the drive to make sense of existing inside the joint pointed and ever elusive.

Rachel Kushner has written an entertaining and easy to read novel that is free of pretension. While you may feel familiar with the subject matter it is always entertaining and fresh.

*The Mars Room is on the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Longlist

Oct 11, 2018

Bleak. Grim. Dark. Choose your adjective, or go to the thesaurus for more. This is not a cheerful book, but I found it worth reading for a couple of reasons. One, the writing is brilliant, and two, the author takes us into a world few of us will ever know -- that of a women's prison in California. Follow her at your peril!

Oct 05, 2018

I read the first chapter, started on the second and just did not like this book.

Oct 01, 2018

I stopped reading at page 178. It's not that I felt the book was bad, I lost interest. I almost stopped at an earlier page because of certain sexual content, but I got to where I did. I skimmed the rest of the book to the ending. I liked the rails comment.

Aug 29, 2018

Even without reading the comments, I can guess that people are going to have a problem with the protagonist of this novel and the grim subject matter. The main character is a stripper who kills a man and loses custody of her child. Much of the novel is set in a woman's prison (It ain't no "Orange is the New Black."). Good fiction should bring you into contact with characters that you normally wouldn't think about or encounter, and that's exactly what Rachel Kushner's novel does. She's one of our best writers, and this is one of my favorite books of the year. "The Flame Throwers" is equally good.

Aug 19, 2018

I always enjoy reading a novel whose setting is San Francisco and though this one isn't, much of the main character's memories are. Not exactly a page-turner, but when I sat down and made the effort I found this book turned into an interesting read. Enough of an interesting read in fact that I'd be open to checking out other works by this author.

Aug 13, 2018

Wow, I had a hard time getting through this novel. I succeeded, but it was a slog. Took me much longer than most of my other reads, and particularly novels. This slowness was likely due to the subject matter... most of story takes place in a women's prison. It puts the reader into the minds of murderers, drug addicts, bad cops, and stalkers. It's not a fun place to reside. I didn't much care for this book, although others seem to really like the author and her work based on how many people were waiting for the book.

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Oct 01, 2018

That life does not go off the rails because it is the rails,goes where it goes.


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