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Know the Night: A Memoir of Survival in the…

Know the Night: A Memoir of Survival in the Small Hours

by Maria Mutch

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    The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son by Ian Brown (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Parents struggle to cope with children who have unusual developmental disabilities.

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Maria Mutch has a fascinating story to tell. Her first son, Gabriel, was born with Downs Syndrome. At the age of two he begins to exhibit behavior which is not normally associated with Downs Syndrome. It took a few years to discover that his nocturnal shrieking, wakefulness and repetitive actions were signs of autism. Almost every night, Maria and her husband, referred to as R, are awakened by unusual sounds or just as serious, complete silence from Gabriel's room. On those nights, Maria took Gabriel out and discovered a world in which Gabriel could relate, sooth him and for awhile find a door to a comforting place where other night owls lived and flourished, Jazz Clubs.
Ms. Mutch juxtapositions her feelings of loneliness with excerpts from Admiral Byrd's memoir Alone. Frankly, I thought these excerpts, references to Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus and her skipping and hopping about through episodes in Gabriel's childhood rather disturbing. I do however admire, the author's loving care of Gabriel and her midnight journey's with him. For me, with a little less reference to Byrd this memoir would have been more emotionally effective. ( )
  Carmenere | Jun 1, 2014 |
Maria Mutch combines the the story of Antarctic explorer Richard Byrd with that of her much-loved son Gabriel in this moving, poetic memoir.

Gabriel was born with Down Syndrome. He developed language skills as other children do until he was a toddler, but then a series of seizures damaged his brain and took his words away. Gabriel is a teenager now, and it seems like he leads a pretty good life, despite his limitations and dual diagnosis of Down Syndrome and autism. He shows signs of frustration at his inability to speak, but he can communicate through sounds and gestures, such as tossing his toast across the kitchen when his mother fails to understand what he wants for breakfast. Jazz reaches him as nothing else can, and he's a favorite at the clubs goes to with his parents.

For a few years Gabriel was not able to sleep well, and through the long, lonely nights his mother would stay up with him. During this sleep-deprived period she found solace in Alone , Admiral Richard Byrd's memoir of his solitary stay at an isolated weather station. She retells Byrd's narrative as a "counterpoint" (the book flap's word) to her son's. As a reader, I found her connection of the two stories tenuous at best, and as I was more interested in Gabriel than I was in Byrd, I found myself skimming the chapters on Antarctica.

This book is not a page-turner; its pleasures derive from the author's writing skill rather than from plot, action, medical detail or character development. As Mutch writes near the end of the book, it is a "love story", a love story that involves Gabriel, his parents and brother, and the community of which the they are a part. ( )
  akblanchard | May 6, 2014 |
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"In this soul-stirring debut memoir, Maria Mutch explores the miraculous power that care and communication have in the face of the deep, personal isolation that often comes with disability. A chronicle of the witching hours between midnight and six a.m., this meditative book takes place during the two-year period in which Mutch's son Gabriel, who is autistic and also has Down syndrome, rarely slept through the night. In this tapestry composed of interwoven memories, we see both Gabriel's difficult childhood and Maria's introduction to the world of multiple disability parenting. As a counterpoint to Gabriel's figurative isolation is the story of Admiral Richard Byrd, the polar explorer who journeyed alone into the Antarctic wilderness in the 1930s. His story creates a shared and powerful language for the experience of feeling alone. In these three characters--mother, son, and explorer--Mutch reveals overlapping and layered themes of solitude that, far from driving us apart, enlighten, uplift, and connect."--Publisher description.… (more)

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