Book Wookie

Brutally honest book reviews

The Empty Room by Lauren B. Davis

posted by Jenny
The Empty Room Book Cover The Empty Room

Adult Fiction
Harper Collins Canada
May 29, 2013

Colleen Kerrigan wakes up sick and bruised, with no clear memory of the night before. It’s Monday morning, and she is late for work again. She’s shocked to see the near-empty vodka bottle on her kitchen counter. It was full at noon yesterday; surely she didn’t drink that much last night? As she struggles out the door, she fights the urge to have a sip, just to take the edge off. But no, she’s not going to drink today.

But this is the day Colleen’s demons come for her. A very bad day spirals into night as a series of flashbacks take the reader through Colleen’s past—moments of friendship and loss, fragments of peace and possibility. The single constant is the bottle, always close by, Colleen’s worst enemy and her only friend.


Colleen is almost 50. She has very little to show for her life except a string of bad and failed relationships, contempt for her mentally and physically-ailing mother, and “friends” who will no longer return her calls. That, and Colleen is an alcoholic.

She was not in control and knew herself not to be in control. She was at that point in the evening when she saw quite clearly things that were happening that she did not want to happen. She was blurting out every little thing, and no one was more interested than she to hear what they might be. She feared she was making a fool of herself, but the train was hurtling down the track, the brakes completely blown.

Character Development & Pacing

The way that Davis writes The Empty Room makes Colleen and her life seem eerily real. It is written in the third person, which is highly effective given Colleen’s plight. The Empty Room takes place over only one long and hopeless day of Colleen’s life, with necessary flashbacks to the past, giving the reader background and context. The thoughts that Colleen has are so primal, uncensored, and unguarded, I felt like they were my own thoughts in my head. When Colleen is drunk and makes a fool out of herself, I would just cringe because it was so uncomfortable for me to even read.

The Empty Room has a lot of detail written into the pages, but it does not slow down the plot. Colleen can spend pages describing her perfume bottles, or her ride down in the elevator of her apartment, yet every word seems to captivate.

The Verdict

Despite a lot of problems, failures, and embarrassments in the past, The Empty Room describes the moment in time that is Colleen’s rock bottom. It was difficult to read about her helpless spiral into despair, and The Empty Room practically had me sympathy-suicidal by the end. Davis was really able to capture what the desperation and loneliness of an addiction must feel like, despite what looks only like self-destruction to us on the outside.

About the Author

Jenny is a reviewer for Book Wookie. She enjoys reading a variety of novels, but seems to especially gravitate towards historical fiction and adventure. Reading has been a life-long love, and she tries to squeeze as much in as she can around teaching, nurturing, and supporting her two little munchkins.

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2 Comments to

“The Empty Room by Lauren B. Davis”

  1. Avatar April 5th, 2014 at 12:41 pm Wendy A. says:

    Great review, echoes my thoughts of the book also. Sobbed for Colleen in the final 2 chapters of the book. A def. first emotional reaction for me with a read, previously a few tears over a sad ‘scene’ in other books. Even think of the character today which means a perfect character was developed for readers.
    Not a drinker nor alcoholic, but have known of others who’s life spiralled out of control leading to illness and now care home life in just middle 60′s.
    Two books you may enjoy reading are: Winter In Madrid by C.J. Sansom of Spain during Franco’s reign with British characters also. Another book, I’ve just begun is: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy and is an Alaskan based novel in the 1920′s. Excellent descriptive writing and character development in first few chapters.
    I’ll be bookmarking your website to read more.


    Jenny Reply:

    Hi Wendy. I am so glad to hear that you felt the same way! I will probably never forget this book either–it really hit a nerve, and I don’t have a drinking problem either! I have recommended it to a lot of people already.

    Thank you so much for some other book suggestions! I have already put them on hold at the library. I have been on the fence about whether or not to read Snow Child because I was afraid it might be a bit too ‘out there’ for me, but I think I may take the plunge. Thanks for the push!



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