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A transcendent memoir by poet Maria Mutch about the distances that can form between people who should be the closest of all—husband and wife, parent and child, lifelong friends and partners.
Unfolding over the witching hours between midnight and 6am, this moving and meditative book takes place during the two year period in which the author's son Gabriel, who is autistic and also has Down Syndrome, did not sleep through the night. Gabriel spends much of his life as a puzzling enigma to his parents, but when he becomes unlocked by jazz music, his mother finds herself taking him into jazz clubs at all hours of the night, where he becomes a favorite patron. There is a fierce beauty in the isolation that envelops these two people as they wait out the nighttime hours, which Mutch compares to the isolation of polar explorer Admiral Richard Byrd. His story, interwoven here, brings insight into the profound experience of physical isolation, and creates a shared language for the experience of feeling alone. Through these three main characters—mother, son, adventuring explorer—Mutch triangulates overlapping and layered themes of solitude that enlighten and uplift one another.
During the two years her autistic son Gabriel who was born with Downs Syndrome, later diagnosed with Autism, and does not speak--cycled through repetitive behaviors, refusing to sleep, soiling himself, and becoming a "cyclone" of inarticulate sounds, Canadian poet Mutch experienced a dark night of the soul. She compares the claustrophobia to the four months American explorer Richard Byrd spent in an Antarctic hut in 1934, slowly being poisoned by carbon monoxide. Her reflections on Byrd's expedition, Camus' 1942 essay "The Myth of Sisyphus," Van Gogh's "shattered mind," as well as the rhythmic, improvisational jazz that calms Gabriel transform Mutch's memoir of raising a child with Down Syndrome into a meditation on the effects of silence, isolation, and unusual forms of rescue. Mutch, who now lives with her family in Rhode Island, presents her nighttime vigils as solitary odysseys into the depths of her son's perception of the world. With the exact perception only a parent offers, she suggests that Gabriel is in fact a sorcerer, wizard, and puzzle casting a spell over her. Her wise reading of his motivations and thoughts on the existential meaning of his condition create a compassionate picture of his world.