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Publisher's Summary

Featuring original music by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon! 

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. As James Wood said in The New Yorker, her fiction "succeeds because it is so full of vibrantly different stories and histories, all of them particular, all of them brilliantly alive." 

©2018 Rachel Kushner (P)2018 Simon & Schuster

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Enters your brain - one time listen

This gripped me from the beginning. I could not stop listening. Unlike “You” and “Hidden bodies”, I felt no sympathy for the characters . I wanted too, but this is hardcore and I hope it will end up as a show because the “cool” chicks in “Orange is the new black” world not make it here a day.

Get ready to listen in one-sitting.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing novel !

From start to finish the novel is read like a stream of consciousness poetry reading at a hole in the wall nightclub. Kushner does such a great job of narration in this audible book, I’m worried I won’t be able to enjoy her other works, which are narrated by others. Given my own prior professional career I can say Kushner’s novel provides more insight into the mindset of those trapped in the modern day prison system than any book I’ve ever read. The amount of time she must have spent researching her novel is evident. So happy to have discovered such a talented writer and look forward to enjoying many more of her novels in the years to come.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Clear your calendar

You will be a prisoner to this book! I read the New Yorker profile and based on all the hype, I was primed to dislike this book, but I was intrigued by all of the first-hand information-gathering the author did at a womens' prison in California. To my surprise, I was blown away. I usually don't listen to books I think will be really good, but in this case, I think the author's read really enhanced the experience. She perfectly captures the main character's mix of passion and diffidence, both driven in large part by socio-economic circumstance. The story is relayed in chapters told from the perspective of a few different characters, a format I really enjoy. The small details of prison life and its complex social dynamics were fascinating, particularly since they involve women and are told largely from a woman's perspective. If you are looking for something fresh and new, rather than yet another chick-lit novel set in WWII, you will not be disappointed. I recommend reading the New Yorker profile first.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Ughhhh

I was so looking forward to this book but the voice drives me crazy. I tried but couldn't get past it.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

...

So confusing, jumpy, and boring. Not to mention that the story goes absolutely nowhere and contains a lot of pointless stuff. It's a try-hard for Orange is the New Black meets finger pointing cliches. I thought I'd love this book based on the synopsis but I really didn't.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A Bleak Tale Done the Right Way

The Mars Room is a tale of hopelessness and despair. It is said that Kushner researched the California women's prison system for years while writing this novel, and her efforts are evident in the grim details of this tale of despair. The story provides a look into the lives of those who start out at a disadvantage from birth. It is a story about bad choices, about not having the mental capacity to avoid bad choices, and, ultimately, the result of bad choices. The Mars Room is well written and narrated by the author herself, and Kushner's style and voice is perfect for our doomed female stripper/prisoner/protagonist. Overall 3.98 stars

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Painfully beautiful story well delivered

I am wary of novels read by the author because not all gifted writers are also gifted orators. This was a layered and sparkling story with narration that was interesting and convincing.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I can't think of any way this book could have been

As a great admirer of Kushner's previous novels I was expecting to love this and I did. Unflinching, unvarnished - like being inside the characters heads. A superb achievement. She did a wonderful job with the narration as well.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Way overrated

I read a stellar review upon this book's publication, which convinced me to buy it. The author read this uninteresting book in a bored, boring drone. I really don't understand the positive response to this book.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Joelle
  • Issaquah, WA, United States
  • 05-29-18

So depressing

This books adverts said words such as ‘humorous’, ‘wry’ and ‘sarcastic wit’. Some of my favorite adjectives when describing a book I’m potentially going to read.

Didn’t laugh.

Might need to increase my happy pills because this book was a bummer.


On a better note; the narrator did an outstanding job with the text!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful