This debut novel from a neurodiverse writer is an extraordinary story of a fiercely original young woman whose radical self-acceptance illuminates a new way of being in the world and opens up a whole new realm of understanding and connection.
As a full moon rises over Melbourne, 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.
A Room Called Earth is Madeleine Ryan’s debut novel, and it’s one of the most eye-opening books I’ve read in a long time. Ryan is a neurodiverse author and is dedicated to sharing the experiences of neurodiversity, whether it be through her witty and enchanting prose or her incredibly detailed and complex characters, she is dedicated to exploring experiences that many people often look past.
Every character in the novel feels relatable and real, each dealing with their own issues and problems. As we follow the protagonist throughout her night, Ryan explores themes of conformity and connection by having her explore her relationships with friends, strangers and even exes. Even though the story takes place over one night, it feels like it covers so much more.
One major takeaway from the novel was the experience of going into the mind of a neurodiverse person. It certainly opened up my eyes to a different perspective and is something many more books should be doing. Giving voices to those who don’t often get one is essential to creating valuable and fascinating stories.
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 heart-warming, 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.
Acknowledgment of Cultural Fund support
Better Reading acknowledges the support provided by Copyright Agency for us to promote A Room Called Earth.