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

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This soul-stirring debut memoir explores the experience of isolation and the miraculous power of care and communication in its midst. 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 an This soul-stirring debut memoir explores the experience of isolation and the miraculous power of care and communication in its midst. 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 twoyear 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.


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This soul-stirring debut memoir explores the experience of isolation and the miraculous power of care and communication in its midst. 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 an This soul-stirring debut memoir explores the experience of isolation and the miraculous power of care and communication in its midst. 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 twoyear 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.

30 review for Know the Night: A Memoir of Survival in the Small Hours

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    As a speech-language pathologist, it is always interesting and helpful to read from the perspective of a parent of a child with a disability, and I really appreciated that within this book. This was a different read than I was expecting, much more poetic as it wove the story of Antarctic explorer Admiral Richard Byrd with her writings about her son. While the writing was poetic and kept me reading, at times it was difficult to follow her train of thought as her takeaways or points of connection As a speech-language pathologist, it is always interesting and helpful to read from the perspective of a parent of a child with a disability, and I really appreciated that within this book. This was a different read than I was expecting, much more poetic as it wove the story of Antarctic explorer Admiral Richard Byrd with her writings about her son. While the writing was poetic and kept me reading, at times it was difficult to follow her train of thought as her takeaways or points of connection between the explorer and her experience seemed so personal and specific that I couldn’t always understand. Her son was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and Autism and I found most helpful her writings about receiving the diagnosis and being asked ‘What age do you think your son is developmentally?’ by a professional. The complexity of an individual and giving an answer for something so unanswerable increased my compassion for parents on the other side of an evaluation that is often part of my job. My favorite lines about the diagnosis were the following: ‘As Dr. M observed Gabriel and took extensive notes about his development, going back in time to gestation, we were really progressing to a truth I had known all along, that his autism was as old as he was, that it had accompanied us all this way, unacknowledged but nevertheless there. So much there in fact that its cumulative effect seemed greater than that of Down Syndrome. In the realm of brainstorms, it was, within Gabriel, a more potent system. Some parents of children on the spectrum have told me how limiting they find the diagnosis, that the act of naming the mystery doesn’t bring enlightenment or relief and instead can mean that their child is rigidly perceived by other people, especially school staff. When Dr. M confirmed Gabriel’s autism, however, my response was the antithesis of what I’d experienced when Dr. P first gave the diagnosis, this time I was accepting. Before we knew what to call it, autism had actually felt more dangerous. Now it was quieter, smaller. Still a gyre with a wide-open eye, but the storm had a name.’ 50 Books, 50 States -- Rhode Island

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael F.

    This memoir is one of only a handful that I have read that could be considered great literature, groundbreaking writing. Maria Mutch, an accomplished poet and photographer, gives birth to an autistic son, Gabriel, who challenges her vision of reality through years of nights sitting up with him, watching him participate in a world that only he can see. The story of Mutch’s rescue from what she initially considers a burden is cleverly mirrored in the accounts of Admiral Richard Byrd’s solitary sta This memoir is one of only a handful that I have read that could be considered great literature, groundbreaking writing. Maria Mutch, an accomplished poet and photographer, gives birth to an autistic son, Gabriel, who challenges her vision of reality through years of nights sitting up with him, watching him participate in a world that only he can see. The story of Mutch’s rescue from what she initially considers a burden is cleverly mirrored in the accounts of Admiral Richard Byrd’s solitary stay in the long polar night, where he wrestles with madness and existential threats from the frigid world he inhabits. While the reader is being carried along on this fabulous stream of a story, the author begins to reveal her struggle to understand who Gabriel’s is, and why his primary stimulus is the music of jazz. In the end, Mutch’s epiphany, which she distills into two simple words, sews up a fantastic journey. Fabulous structure, captivating story without self-pity, poetic language that supports a strange new world that is being revealed, insights by the bushel, and a magical trip through the eyes of a loving mother, make this a must read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    "Know The Night" which I won from Goodreads Giveaways is a touching, heartwarming memoir as a mother struggles with the intellectual development, communication and bowel movements of her son Gabriel an autistic boy with Down's Syndrome. There is no reprieve even at night for Maria Mutch who is committed to her son's care. Nightly she's awakened by clapping, humming and shrieking that shatters the quiet stillness of the dark hours until she's plagued by anxiety, her rest broken as she continually "Know The Night" which I won from Goodreads Giveaways is a touching, heartwarming memoir as a mother struggles with the intellectual development, communication and bowel movements of her son Gabriel an autistic boy with Down's Syndrome. There is no reprieve even at night for Maria Mutch who is committed to her son's care. Nightly she's awakened by clapping, humming and shrieking that shatters the quiet stillness of the dark hours until she's plagued by anxiety, her rest broken as she continually waits for the interruption. While searching for an understanding of her child, and craving a visible show of Gabriel's love, Maria becomes enthralled by the life of the Antarctic explorer Admiral Richard Byrd. Reading the book " Alone" she finds some commonality in her struggle, and Byrd's as he fights to survive the isolation of the polar darkness during 1934. It is his words that seem to bring her comfort and revelation. This is an emotionally-charged story that stirs the heart and is told with honesty and love. The plot is well-developed although at times I found it confusing as it can become a bit convoluted when a chapter is composed of Gabriel, Maria and Byrd's struggles. I also didn't like the use of initials for names which tended to alienate me because it seemed so impersonal. In Maria's narrative sounds are juxtaposed with one another; the swirling eddies of musical notes that enthrall Gabriel, and the haunting melody of the North against the cacophony of noise that amplifies when Gabriel shrieks and smashes. The latter are simple but repetitious, deadening and deafening. In the visualization of the Byrd's Antarctic Maria waxes almost poetic. She also seems to be enthralled by the similarities of this explorer's story, and their struggles; like Byrd's isolation and Gabriel's, his endurance and persistence and hers, as well as the need to find comfort in the darkness of the unknown, and to find a way out of the seemingly limitless and invisible darkness of the night. In this story you want to wrap your arms around Gabriel, the child who struggles in his isolation and the terror of a world that's been marked by loss of language, seizures and fear. You cheer him on when he reaches public elementary school where he's bombarded with consistent sensory therapy which can be daunting but stimulating, but also brings the connection and support of children who like his differences. Maria, his mother I admire with her courage and love, in her struggle to understand her child and to some extend mitigate the impact on her second son and husband. This is a story of love and courage,of isolation and survival. As Maria points out it will resonate with anyone who has lain awake in the dark or longed to protect a loved one. This book is well worth reading.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fawn Carriker

    This was a hard book to read, simply because of its stark reality and poignancy. Raising and loving a child with a disability is difficult, but also rewarding. Maria Mutch did an excellent job counterbalancing the fear, exhaustion, and joy that comes with loving such a child.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rita Ciresi

    So grateful to my daughter for giving me this exquisite book about mothering a child with autism. Know the Night is a collage memoir about insomnia, silence, jazz, polar exploration, and above all else, a mother's love for a child who is locked into his own world. Beautifully written and often heartbreaking. So grateful to my daughter for giving me this exquisite book about mothering a child with autism. Know the Night is a collage memoir about insomnia, silence, jazz, polar exploration, and above all else, a mother's love for a child who is locked into his own world. Beautifully written and often heartbreaking.

  6. 4 out of 5

    C

    A quiet and beautiful memoir in sections that somehow weaves stories of Antarctic exploration with the story of Mutch’s special needs child Gabriel.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Devon

    One of the features of early infant care that did my head in was being up several times in the night for feedings/changings/comfort-giving/cleaning up barf or pee during the toddler years. Then I had to get up and go to work all day. I thought I would die. I kind of never got over that and sleep now whenever and wherever I can. I'll forever be in recovery, tempted by prescription sleep aids to guarantee a chemical vacation for a few hours. I cannot imagine how harrowing the ongoing sleep interru One of the features of early infant care that did my head in was being up several times in the night for feedings/changings/comfort-giving/cleaning up barf or pee during the toddler years. Then I had to get up and go to work all day. I thought I would die. I kind of never got over that and sleep now whenever and wherever I can. I'll forever be in recovery, tempted by prescription sleep aids to guarantee a chemical vacation for a few hours. I cannot imagine how harrowing the ongoing sleep interruption/deprivation of this story would affect me. Here's a clue from P. 156: "Night is an amplifier, enlarging every vibration--the furnace turning off and on, hot air rushing in the vents, the metallic pings and ticks as the ducts adjust--as if each is worth being heard." This part I experienced in my sleep deprivation with babies. Go a little deeper into Mutch's experience and read "But I don't know how to explain, how to say that Gabriel and the night have affected me, made me different; the molecules are still in my skin. I'm full of nebulas, dying starts, solar winds, and substorms. Night is in me." p.160. She very smartly weaves in an account of Admiral Richard Byrd, who was alone for a period of time in the ice of Antarctica and the affect it had on him before he was rescued--that level of isolation and unwellness that is inescapable, marking his deterioration, parallels both Mutch's experience of parenting a child with autism and Downs as well as the experience of the child, himself. Anyone who is an insomniac, has been up all night with a child more than once, works graveyard shift, has been on this side of darkness and isolation is likely to connect on a cellular level with this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    This book is a memoir written by a mother, about her son who has both autism and Down’s Syndrome. Written over a two-year period, this book gives us a view into what happens in the witching hours (between 12am and dawn), with the author watching over her son (who doesn’t sleep so much). We get to learn about both mother and child in this book, and we watch as the author learns to be a parent to a child with multiple disabilities. We also get to hear from a third person – an unusual addition to t This book is a memoir written by a mother, about her son who has both autism and Down’s Syndrome. Written over a two-year period, this book gives us a view into what happens in the witching hours (between 12am and dawn), with the author watching over her son (who doesn’t sleep so much). We get to learn about both mother and child in this book, and we watch as the author learns to be a parent to a child with multiple disabilities. We also get to hear from a third person – an unusual addition to the story – an explorer, Admiral Richard Byrd. The author reads this explorers book (‘Alone’ – which gives his account of surviving the polar darkness in 1934), and his words bring the author comfort – its woven together quite beautifully. A really lovely book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Skye

    This was an absolutely captivating read-- I got it from the library but once I put down some roots, I want to buy my own copy and underline the parts I loved. It reads like poetry and prayer, and is a perfect read for a snowy New England night. I identified both with the exhausted mother and the lonely Arctic explorer, though both experiences are foreign to me. And perhaps the biggest surprise was how jazz is woven throughout the novel. This is clearly a masterpiece and will stay with me for a l This was an absolutely captivating read-- I got it from the library but once I put down some roots, I want to buy my own copy and underline the parts I loved. It reads like poetry and prayer, and is a perfect read for a snowy New England night. I identified both with the exhausted mother and the lonely Arctic explorer, though both experiences are foreign to me. And perhaps the biggest surprise was how jazz is woven throughout the novel. This is clearly a masterpiece and will stay with me for a long time.

  10. 5 out of 5

    prescribed

    "Like the creatures discovered in the deepest parts of the ocean, we construct a light of our own." know the night is a memoir written by an insomniac mother raising a son with autism and down syndrome. My heart grew a little from reading this beautiful book. "Like the creatures discovered in the deepest parts of the ocean, we construct a light of our own." know the night is a memoir written by an insomniac mother raising a son with autism and down syndrome. My heart grew a little from reading this beautiful book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hal Carim

    A moving account of a mother's vigil in the midnight hours caring for her autistic child with Down's syndrome when he was awake, underlining the Power of Love and of Communication. A moving account of a mother's vigil in the midnight hours caring for her autistic child with Down's syndrome when he was awake, underlining the Power of Love and of Communication.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Seth Ahrens

    I enjoyed this book and I think that it had a good message about disability. The author was a good storyteller, but I did not really have much in common with the book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Clearly, having read this memoir in two days, it was one I couldn't put down. It presents the voice of a mother, the author, journeying through acceptance of, trying to understand, and finally surrendering to the multiple diagnoses of her eldest son who lives with Down syndrome and autism. It is a slice of the life of a family, mainly of two years of sleepness nights, and how the mother maintained balance while on that journey. It is a privilege to be taken into the confidence of the teller, who Clearly, having read this memoir in two days, it was one I couldn't put down. It presents the voice of a mother, the author, journeying through acceptance of, trying to understand, and finally surrendering to the multiple diagnoses of her eldest son who lives with Down syndrome and autism. It is a slice of the life of a family, mainly of two years of sleepness nights, and how the mother maintained balance while on that journey. It is a privilege to be taken into the confidence of the teller, who presents her son, Gabriel, with such dignity and respect to us while also sharing the daily challenges of understanding and responding to who he is. The author opens to us as well the ways she managed her own balance and metaphor for understanding both how alone Gabriel might/must be feeling as well as how alone she and her family feel at times. Daily running and mindful observation of nature and the universe. Reading about and imagining the experiences of men driven to explore places on earth that are alone places, notably expeditions to the North and South Poles in the early years of the 20th century. Gabriel's ability to get inside of live jazz as a way for his family to offer him outlet for what he secretly hods inside. The memoir offers us the gift of insight into the journey of love and acceptance of a family toward their son/brother who doesn't speak and who is not like others. It is a story of love, of beautiful examples of inclusion, and of mystery - autism is a mystery. At times I found the language challenging, had to stop and consider what some words meant, eg. entropy, verdant, semaphore, sanguine, feint, beguiled, katabatic, atomic, loquacious, quotidian... The read also assumed that I was somewhat familiar with Albert Camus and The Myth of Sisyphus; somewhat familiar with jazz musicians, Thelonius Monk being just one; and somewhat familiar with Antarctic explorers. Lots of learn here for sure about a range of subjects. As a result of this read I do plan to read Alone by Admiral Richard Byrd whose sojourn alone into the dark months of Antarctica provided solace and shared feelings with the author of Know the Night on her journey with Gabriel through two years of sleepless nights. A companion on her journey. Quite fasclinating.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Warren-Newport Public Library

    Maria Mutch combines 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 that he leads a good life, despite his dual diagnosis of Down Syndrome and autism. He shows signs of frustration at his inability to speak, Maria Mutch combines 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 that he leads a good life, despite his 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 doesn't understand what he wants for breakfast. Music reaches him as nothing else can, and he's a favorite at the jazz clubs he visits 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. This book is not a page-turner; its pleasures derive from the author's sharp observations and writing skill, not from plot or action. As Mutch writes, 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. (Amy B.)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    This is a memoir about being a mother to a son with severe autism and down syndrome, and jazz, and being awake at night, and having a deep connection to Antarctica and the experience of Byrd and the other explorers who went there. Not surprisingly, it's not plot based. It meanders from one subject and scene to another. I enjoyed the writing and the feel of it, but it was a book that I had to push myself through, not one that pulled me along. Here are a couple thoughts I liked, that give a good fe This is a memoir about being a mother to a son with severe autism and down syndrome, and jazz, and being awake at night, and having a deep connection to Antarctica and the experience of Byrd and the other explorers who went there. Not surprisingly, it's not plot based. It meanders from one subject and scene to another. I enjoyed the writing and the feel of it, but it was a book that I had to push myself through, not one that pulled me along. Here are a couple thoughts I liked, that give a good feel for the tone of the book as a whole: "I want to go back to sleep like a desert traveler wants water... The linear left the building long ago and we've been joined by the dendritic and decentralized. I've never been someone who passes out, but it seems the perfect thing to do would be to fall comatose to the floor." "The membrane between space and time is a sieve; I can be dusted through it and reassembled on the other side." For a book without a plot, it managed to have a pretty satisfying ending. In the last chapter or so she referenced many words, phrases, quotes, and images from earlier in the book, and that seemed to help with the wrapping up of the narrative. Anyway, it was good writing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike Freeman

    While this book will probably translate more easily to those who have special needs children, it's a terrific though challenging book for anyone. If Mutch isn't a poet she should be, and much of the narrative is connected by complicated imagery and rhythms. Her son Gabriel, who has both autism and Down's Syndrome, by and large stops sleeping for two years, with all of his night care left to his equally sleepless mother. Scrambling for kinship, she finds it through jazz, which Gabriel loves too, While this book will probably translate more easily to those who have special needs children, it's a terrific though challenging book for anyone. If Mutch isn't a poet she should be, and much of the narrative is connected by complicated imagery and rhythms. Her son Gabriel, who has both autism and Down's Syndrome, by and large stops sleeping for two years, with all of his night care left to his equally sleepless mother. Scrambling for kinship, she finds it through jazz, which Gabriel loves too, and the writings of Robert Byrd, a Depression-Era Antarctic explorer who isolated himself in the sunless, frigid night for four months. Mutch weaves her own speechless isolation with that of Byrd's, interspersing poignant philosophical passages throughout, many of them trying to plumb what such isolation does to the mind in its fretful search for meaning. Her dedication to her son, though, says through the whole book what Mutch finally confesses at the end, that this is a love story, and it's only there that's she's able to scratch out a semblance of meaning. Stylistically, it's tough to find a better handled book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    I think its so interesting how you sometimes don't really "know" people unless you live with them, or at least stay with them. You get a chance to observe their rituals, the ways they do things and how their families interact. I thought this memoir was so illuminating in that way, as if you really were experiencing the daily (night)life of this family. The author opens a window on her son's life that few people would otherwise witness. Her son is autistic and was born with Down's syndrome (and o I think its so interesting how you sometimes don't really "know" people unless you live with them, or at least stay with them. You get a chance to observe their rituals, the ways they do things and how their families interact. I thought this memoir was so illuminating in that way, as if you really were experiencing the daily (night)life of this family. The author opens a window on her son's life that few people would otherwise witness. Her son is autistic and was born with Down's syndrome (and other issues as well) and - for at least some period of time - did not sleep at night. Not only did he not sleep but he was in the habit of SHRIEKING (loudly, for hours!). The writing is beautiful but I was much more impressed by how the author conveyed her love for her son, shared the life her family is living, and seamlessly interwove the telling of Admiral Byrd's Antarctic experiences when he was alone on the Ice with her experiences. My review doesn't begin to do the book justice. I highly recommend for anyone who would like to get a peek at a family who is dealing with a very challenging and special situation.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Literary Mama

    Know the Night chronicles Mutch's two-year bout of sleeplessness while caring for her child, in between "a mesh of silence, shrieks, and spaces where words are supposed to be." Mutch crafts her densely rich memoir with all the nuanced details of her son Gabriel's birth and subsequent diagnosis with Down syndrome, his gain and loss of language, his autism diagnosis, and all of the moments in between, although not necessarily in that particular, or even chronological, order. Mutch parallels her ow Know the Night chronicles Mutch's two-year bout of sleeplessness while caring for her child, in between "a mesh of silence, shrieks, and spaces where words are supposed to be." Mutch crafts her densely rich memoir with all the nuanced details of her son Gabriel's birth and subsequent diagnosis with Down syndrome, his gain and loss of language, his autism diagnosis, and all of the moments in between, although not necessarily in that particular, or even chronological, order. Mutch parallels her own sleeplessness to that of polar explorer Richard E. Byrd, who survived for months miles from the main base in Antarctica during an expedition. In Gabriel's room, Mutch writes: "The enclosed feel of the room with the contrast of the Ice bears some resemblance, in only a symbolic way, to my childhood forts." Read Literary Mama's full review here: http://www.literarymama.com/reviews/a...

  19. 5 out of 5

    MountainShelby

    This book is beautifully written, insightful, and compelling. BUT, while the prose is, as other readers have commented, poetic, for me it was just too poetic--I wanted more of the grit of her existence (and she does give some examples, but they were wrapped around this rather fey aura of words). After awhile the book just became too dreamy for me. Perhaps that was Mutch's intention, but I needed a bit more of the string, not just the kite. Ironically, Byrd's book (which I read many years ago), a This book is beautifully written, insightful, and compelling. BUT, while the prose is, as other readers have commented, poetic, for me it was just too poetic--I wanted more of the grit of her existence (and she does give some examples, but they were wrapped around this rather fey aura of words). After awhile the book just became too dreamy for me. Perhaps that was Mutch's intention, but I needed a bit more of the string, not just the kite. Ironically, Byrd's book (which I read many years ago), and to which Mutch draws a parallel, is a very gritty account of his spending months alone in a shelter/hole at the South Pole, a grueling experience by any measure. Maybe for me my memory of reading about his experience simply prevailed over Mutch's.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alissa

    Quite a lovely book. I didn't follow all the parallels to Byrd's expedition other than loneliness, isolation, and needing to be rescued, but the part about the lamp was very revealing. If a child continually drops a lamp the first assumption is that they're being mischievous. So the notion that a child would keep doing this for something more compelling like right a wrong is just mind-blowing. I feel for G. and his family because for however much he's enriched their lives, this barrier between h Quite a lovely book. I didn't follow all the parallels to Byrd's expedition other than loneliness, isolation, and needing to be rescued, but the part about the lamp was very revealing. If a child continually drops a lamp the first assumption is that they're being mischievous. So the notion that a child would keep doing this for something more compelling like right a wrong is just mind-blowing. I feel for G. and his family because for however much he's enriched their lives, this barrier between himself and others must make it difficult to give him everything he needs. But I do understand what the author is saying when she says that his barriers in some cases give him more freedom than the rest of us, and sometimes the opposite. It's a very touching memoir.

  21. 5 out of 5

    (a)lyss(a)

    I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. What struck me first about this book was the fact that there's not really a plot to push it along and perhaps that's why it's taken me so long to finish it. The book is lyrical at times, incredibly detailed as we're shown these intimate moments in this woman's life and the things that have brought her to where she is. The parallel to Byrd's journey is clearer sometimes than others. I found the book gained a lot of structure and seeme I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. What struck me first about this book was the fact that there's not really a plot to push it along and perhaps that's why it's taken me so long to finish it. The book is lyrical at times, incredibly detailed as we're shown these intimate moments in this woman's life and the things that have brought her to where she is. The parallel to Byrd's journey is clearer sometimes than others. I found the book gained a lot of structure and seemed to start racing along post-Autism diagnosis and I found myself feeling for the author and the writing.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Henriette Lazaridis

    Thumb-typing on a phone isn't the best way to convey what a gem this book is. Mutch (full disclosure: she's a friend) does something quite rare here: she writes about her son's autism and Down Syndrome without prescriptions or overt lessons, but with intense love and equally intense effort to discover and understand his silences. That she does this through a study of Byrd's solitude during the Antarctic night and an exploration (with her son) of nighttime jazz is what makes this memoir even more Thumb-typing on a phone isn't the best way to convey what a gem this book is. Mutch (full disclosure: she's a friend) does something quite rare here: she writes about her son's autism and Down Syndrome without prescriptions or overt lessons, but with intense love and equally intense effort to discover and understand his silences. That she does this through a study of Byrd's solitude during the Antarctic night and an exploration (with her son) of nighttime jazz is what makes this memoir even more remarkable and unique.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This account of a mother dealing with her child's issues is disjointed and rambling, but I can forgive that knowing the amount of sleep deprivation she was experiencing. Otherwise, I enjoyed reading about her child and the difficulties their family has overcome. I would have liked less about Byrd's Antarctic journey, but know that she was feeling isolated ad overwhelmed in the face of overwhelming times and the comparison is appropriate. So, to sum up, it could have been better, but it could hav This account of a mother dealing with her child's issues is disjointed and rambling, but I can forgive that knowing the amount of sleep deprivation she was experiencing. Otherwise, I enjoyed reading about her child and the difficulties their family has overcome. I would have liked less about Byrd's Antarctic journey, but know that she was feeling isolated ad overwhelmed in the face of overwhelming times and the comparison is appropriate. So, to sum up, it could have been better, but it could have been worse.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mackenzie Rivers

    I haven't logged in to Goodreads in almost a year, and in that time I have read many good books I enjoyed or found interesting, or well-written--David Mitchell's latest (The Bone Clocks) for one. I am taking the time to login today simply to add my review of Mutch's book. It is a beautifully written work in the way that so many books are simply not, despite their stellar reviews. Mutch is a gifted and honest writer, with a keen intelligence she is not afraid to use, who does not resort to gimmic I haven't logged in to Goodreads in almost a year, and in that time I have read many good books I enjoyed or found interesting, or well-written--David Mitchell's latest (The Bone Clocks) for one. I am taking the time to login today simply to add my review of Mutch's book. It is a beautifully written work in the way that so many books are simply not, despite their stellar reviews. Mutch is a gifted and honest writer, with a keen intelligence she is not afraid to use, who does not resort to gimmicks or fad-writing to weave her compelling narrative. In a word: illuminating.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Graham

    There are very few books that I would award five stars. This is a splendid mix of the personal and the historical, the descriptive and the insightful, and the heartbreaking and the uplifting. Maria Mutch has combined her experience of sleepless nights with her son Gabriel, who has Down syndrome and autism, with descriptions of one of Admiral Richard E. Byrd's polar expeditions. Running through it are anecdotes of some of the great jazz musicians whose music is a tonic for her son. I am glad that There are very few books that I would award five stars. This is a splendid mix of the personal and the historical, the descriptive and the insightful, and the heartbreaking and the uplifting. Maria Mutch has combined her experience of sleepless nights with her son Gabriel, who has Down syndrome and autism, with descriptions of one of Admiral Richard E. Byrd's polar expeditions. Running through it are anecdotes of some of the great jazz musicians whose music is a tonic for her son. I am glad that this work has been nominated for a Governor General's literary award for non-fiction.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rochelle

    I liked the braided, non-linear structure of this memoir, but at times it felt as though the author were making leaps that weren't seamless or even logical. I needed to be grounded a bit more in the present day narrative and to have a more fulfilling reason for the parallel narrative, which is an exploration of the Antarctic expeditions of Admiral Byrd, Shackleton and others. Having said that, I would recommend this book to others. The author is a skilled writer and her story of raising her spec I liked the braided, non-linear structure of this memoir, but at times it felt as though the author were making leaps that weren't seamless or even logical. I needed to be grounded a bit more in the present day narrative and to have a more fulfilling reason for the parallel narrative, which is an exploration of the Antarctic expeditions of Admiral Byrd, Shackleton and others. Having said that, I would recommend this book to others. The author is a skilled writer and her story of raising her special needs child is poignant and beautifully written.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I really like Mutch's comparisons throughout the book. They really help the reader understand her thought processes. Her stories are touch the heart of anyone who reads it an helps open the eyes of the audience to life with a special needs kid. Her son sounds so sweet though! I would love to meet him. Unfortunately, the book didn't have a great resolution on her end, but the rest of the book makes up for it. I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I really like Mutch's comparisons throughout the book. They really help the reader understand her thought processes. Her stories are touch the heart of anyone who reads it an helps open the eyes of the audience to life with a special needs kid. Her son sounds so sweet though! I would love to meet him. Unfortunately, the book didn't have a great resolution on her end, but the rest of the book makes up for it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Something about the author seemed a bit...snobbish? I don't even know how that's possible in a memoir about something that was extremely difficult. I expected to feel more for the author, and to hear more of the story. Instead it was presented in a way that was more fancy prose instead of the raw emotion and honesty I seek in memoirs. I thought the matching up to the Antarctica story was nicely done, however - after a while it lost my interest. Something about the author seemed a bit...snobbish? I don't even know how that's possible in a memoir about something that was extremely difficult. I expected to feel more for the author, and to hear more of the story. Instead it was presented in a way that was more fancy prose instead of the raw emotion and honesty I seek in memoirs. I thought the matching up to the Antarctica story was nicely done, however - after a while it lost my interest.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    As memoirs go, this is among the best I've read in the last several years. The connections between sleeplessness, internal exploration and the experience and isolation of polar explorers is exceptionally well drawn. As memoirs go, this is among the best I've read in the last several years. The connections between sleeplessness, internal exploration and the experience and isolation of polar explorers is exceptionally well drawn.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    Lovely read, written with insight & compelling use of images to create the mood - her story felt lacking on some level... distant rather then intimate... not reaching the heart of her experience perhaps.

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