Know the Night
A Memoir of Survival in the Small Hours
An unforgettable memoir on the experience of isolation and the miraculous power of human connection.
As a baby, Gabriel’s first words and affinity for sign language enthralled his adoring parents. When these words fell away, and his medical diagnoses multiplied, Maria Mutch committed herself entirely to her son’s care. Then, for about two years, Gabe slept very little, drawing mother and son into a nocturnal existence of almost constant wakefulness.
In breathtaking prose, Maria shares the intensely personal challenges and revelations brought about by this period. As Gabe’s sleeping hours dwindled, care took place within an isolated, often frightening world, in which Maria’s desire for connection and meaning expanded. She became fascinated with stories of Antarctic exploration, and found a companion in Admiral Richard E. Byrd, an explorer who lived by himself in the polar darkness for months in 1934 and later wrote about his struggle for survival in a book called Alone. Reimagining Byrd’s story and interweaving it with her own, Maria illuminates a search for love, understanding and comfort against the terrors of the unknown that will resonate with anyone who has lain awake in the dark, or longed to protect a loved one. Know the Night is a powerful journey into the mysteries of nighttime and the human mind, and a testament to the extraordinary bond between mother and child.
“Fascinating, thought-provoking…. [Know the Night] should be required reading for anyone who works with a child with disabilities and recommended reading for everyone else…. It is a literary gift.”
—Lynn Kern Koegel, Ph.D., author of Overcoming Autism
“Know the Night is a wonderful book. Thoughtful and poetic and moving…. Deeply personal, but enriched by the juxtaposition of Byrd’s struggle with solitude and the long polar night. It has stayed with me, and I’m grateful to have been taken along on the author’s journey.”
—Mary Swan, author of My Ghosts and The Boys in the Trees
“From the moment I opened this book, I felt pulled into a uniquely scintillating world, one built of ice crystals, poetic aurorae, starscapes shimmering with jazz, and a boy whose body sings and storms through the night. Mutch writes gorgeously, transcendently, but with the hard-packed earth of wisdom underfoot. For anyone who has ever walked the night with their child or their fragile self, there is company here. And for anyone curious to know what love and grace feel like when they are pressed into pages, this is your book.”
—Alison Wearing, author of Honeymoon in Purdah and Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter
“A moving memoir of maternal love and devotion, Know the Night explores isolation and loneliness in beautifully imagistic prose. ‘The sleepless parent of a wordless child,’ Maria Mutch finds solace in the experience of explorer Admiral Richard Byrd as he struggled alone in continual night at the South Pole. Mutch weaves Byrd’s fascinating narrative like a spell into her own deeply affecting story of mothering a child with autism and Down syndrome. This is a book full of hope, light, and companionship for surviving the small hours of the night.”
—Kelle Groom, author of I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl
“Know the Night offers a magnificent vision of a mother’s love—a love sculpted from jazz and ice and dreams; a love large enough to hold the darkness between midnight and dawn, large enough to hold multiple diagnoses and the vast margins of what they can’t describe—large enough to hold the story of a polar explorer and his months alone in another kind of night. This memoir finds a candid, capacious language—always curious, often stunning—for the states of mystery and wonder at its core.”
—Leslie Jamison, author of The Gin Closet