Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences, plus six years, at Stanville Women's Correctional Facility. Outside is the world from which she has been permanently severed- the San Francisco of her youth, changed almost beyond recognition. The Mars Room strip club where she once gave lap dances for a living. And her seven-year-old son, Jackson, now in the care of Romy's estranged mother.Inside is a new reality to adapt to- thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive. The relentlessly deadpan absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner details with humour and precision. Daily acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike. Allegiances formed over liquor brewed in socks, and stories shared through sewage pipes. Romy sees the future stretch out ahead of her in a long, unwavering line - until news from outside brings a ferocious urgency to her existence, challenging her to escape her own destiny and culminating in a climax of almost unbearable intensity. Through Romy - and through a cast of astonishing characters populating Mars Room - Rachel Kushner presents not just a bold and unsentimental panorama of life on the margins of contemporary America, but an excoriating attack on the prison-industrial complex.
"The Mars Room is mysterious and irreducible. The writing is beautiful -- from hard precision to lyrical imagery, with a flawless feel for when to soar and when to pull back." * Dana Spiotta * "The Mars Room is uniquely informed ... empathetic. An addictive novel, laced throughout with bracing intelligence." * Joshua Ferris * "It's her best book yet, another big step forward. " * Jonathan Franzen *