Five year old Jack is read by Michal Friedman, whose voice is so unbelievably that of a boy I had to look her up. It’s hard to imagine that a woman could bring such a likeness to a child that the story is almost unbearable to listen to.
Jack and his mother are kept by Old Nick in Room, an outdoor garden shed which he has converted into a prison for them, while at the same time Jack’s mother makes it into a wonderful place for him to be. They have a routine. They have toys, such as Snake made out of eggshells with a needle tongue. They make rhymes, and read books, and consequently Jack has a vocabulary which is far beyond his years.
But while he knows words, and how to read, and how to pray to Baby Jesus, he knows nothing of Outside. For each of his five years has been spent only in Room. Only with his mother. Dreading the nights in which the door goes, “Beep! Beep!” and Old Nick enters their space.
This book was incredibly imaginative and incredibly heartbreaking. There is hope, to be sure, but like I was told of sin as a small child in Sunday School: when a nail has been hammered into a board, you can pull it out, but you can never remove the hole it created.
Such is how I imagine Jack’s life, and his mother’s life, to be. Even when Old Nick is gone.