Maria Mutch knows isolation in the way that is unique to parents of a special needs child. Her son, Gabriel, has autism and Down Syndrome. But she gains a distinct appreciation for a new kind of isolation that comes from spending seemingly endless nights awake with her son. In her book, “Know the Night”, Mutch describes with powerful, empathetic, and at times heartbreaking honesty, the desperation of a two-year period when Gabriel was inexplicably awake and full of energy every single night.

During this time, Maria discovers and finds comfort in the book “Alone” that details polar explorer Admiral Richard Byrd’s five months alone in Antarctica running a meteorological station in 1934. She effortlessly weaves these two stories together and the result is a stirring, thoughtful, beautiful exploration of night, isolation, and love.

Maria explores the isolation of the night, Gabriel’s periodic isolation from the world, and the isolation of a mother struggling to find the tools to support her son. While her book gives you a very real sense of the challenging experience of two years of sleep deprivation, Maria gradually finds a gift in all her pain – new levels of companionship and connection with her son. Her late night trips to jazz clubs with Gabriel (one of his favorite fascinations) is a heartwarming example of Maria’s journey to the hidden joys of isolation.

For most, the night brings a level of calm, stillness and quiet but for Gabriel – and consequently Maria – it is a time of clapping, humming and piercing shrieks. Maria makes you feel as if you are with her sitting outside Gabriel’s door as he shrieks in the darkness of night. But from these darkest moments, through her own story, and the inspiration of Admiral Byrd, Maria begins to find that through the night, she is able to bring to light new and different aspects of her son’s beauty.

And, in the end, this is book is a story of unconditional love. Through the pain and frustration of the sleepless nights, the isolation and the darkness, Maria uncovers new ways to connect and communicate with Gabriel; and she develops a new appreciation for his unique strengths. While she didn’t travel to Antarctica, one could argue that Maria’s journey was every bit as daunting as those of Admiral Byrd, and along the way she discovers new levels of personal strength and understanding that are truly inspiring.

Beautifully written, “Know the Night” is a powerful testament to the power of a mother’s love and the strength of the human spirit.

*Thank you to Laura Rossi Public Relations for arranging a review copy.


Maria Mutch was born and raised in Canada, and has a degree in visual art. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in, or are forthcoming from, Poets & Writers, Guernica, Necessary Fiction, Fiction Writers Review, Bayou Magazine and Literary Mama, among others. Her debut book, Know the Night, is published by Knopf Canada and Simon & Schuster, spring, 2014. She lives in Rhode Island with her husband and two sons.