The Mars Room

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The Mars Room
First edition hardcover
AuthorRachel Kushner
CountryUnited States
Publication date
May 1, 2018
Media typePrint (hardback)
Pages352 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN1-476-75655-4 (first edition, hardback)
LC ClassPS3611.U7386M37 2018
Preceded byThe Strange Case of Rachel K 

The Mars Room is a 2018 novel by American author Rachel Kushner.[1][2] The book was released on May 1, 2018 through Scribner. It was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. On November 5, 2018, it received the 2018 Prix Médicis Étranger.[3] The title also received a Gold Medal for Fiction from the California Book Awards.


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, pageantry, and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living. The novel also tells the story of Gordon Hauser, an academic teaching inmates at the prison.


The novel was well-received by critics.[4] In The Irish Times, critic Rob Doyle called The Mars Room "one of the greatest novels I have read in years."[5] Doyle added, "Her prior novel, The Flamethrowers, was expansive and thrilling, but this is richer and deeper, more ambitious in its moral vision." In The Guardian, critic Lisa Allardice called the novel "unflinching and immersive," writing, "Kushner’s prose fizzes as dangerously as the electric fence around Stanville, her observations spiky as barbed wire, her humour desert-sky dark."[6] The Los Angeles Times called the novel "devastating".[7] Similarly, Kirkus Reviews described the novel as "an unforgiving look at a brutal system."[8] Writing for NPR, Michael Schaub noted that Kushner "writes with an intelligence and a ferocity that sets her apart from most others in her cohort. She's a remarkably original and compassionate author, and The Mars Room is a heartbreaking, true and nearly flawless novel."[9] Ron Charles of The Washington Post felt the novel accurately depicted the experience of poverty and prison in America, however he felt, "there’s something so calculated about 'The Mars Room' that even the most progressive readers are bound to feel like they’re being marched down a narrow hallway. I never felt those heavy paws in Kushner’s previous, far more dynamic novels."[10]

Honors and awards[edit]

The Mars Room was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. On November 5, 2018, The Mars Room received France's Prix Médicis Étranger.


  1. ^ McGrath, Charles (May 7, 2018). "Rachel Kushner's 'The Mars Room' Offers a Blackly Comic Take on Prison Life". NY Times. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  2. ^ Garner, Dwight (April 23, 2018). "Rachel Kushner's 'The Mars Room' Offers Big Ideas in Close Quarters". NY Times. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  3. ^ Devarrieux, Claire (November 6, 2018). "Médicis étranger à Rachel Kushner, Médicis essai à Stefano Massini". Libération. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  4. ^ "Book Marks reviews of The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner". Book Marks. Retrieved November 4, 2022.
  5. ^ Doyle, Rob (June 9, 2018). "The Mars Room: 'One of the greatest novels I have read in years'". The Irish Times. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  6. ^ Allardice, Lisa (June 20, 2018). "The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner review – what it means to be poor and female in America". The Guardian. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  7. ^ Novey, Idra (April 26, 2018). "Rachel Kushner's new novel, 'The Mars Room,' is devastating". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  8. ^ "The Mars Room". Kirkus Reviews. February 20, 2018. Retrieved March 7, 2023.
  9. ^ Schaub, Michael (May 10, 2018). "Brilliant But Devastating, 'The Mars Room' Chronicles Life Behind Bars". NPR. Retrieved March 7, 2023.
  10. ^ Charles, Ron (May 3, 2018). "If you like despair — and 'Orange Is the New Black' — you'll love 'The Mars Room'". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 7, 2023.

External links[edit]