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Our Share of Night


Our Share of Night

written by Mariana Enriquez, translated by Megan McDowell

Internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed author Mariana Enriquez has already dazzled English-speaking audiences with her short story collections, including THE DANGERS OF SMOKING IN BED. Now, with OUR SHARE OF NIGHT --- the first of her novels to be translated into English, courtesy of Megan McDowell --- Enriquez invites a whole new world of readers of the supernatural, the horrific and the complexities of dark love stories to join her growing number of fans.

Deep in the wild corners of Argentina lies the compound of the Cult of the Shadow --- also known as the “Order” --- a secret society of occultists who seek to preserve consciousness after death in a quest to live forever. The Order is maintained and run by three families: the Bradfords, the Reyeses and the Mathers. They use their combined wealth and prestigious names and occupations to lure in more loyal (and wealthy) followers and trick those suffering from poverty, including the Indigenous peoples who first called the land of Argentina home, into giving away their children as sacrifices. If the term “sacrifice” draws up unholy images of blood and death, you should feel lucky that your imagination stops right there…because Enriquez’s certainly doesn’t.

"OUR SHARE OF NIGHT is an indelible, unforgettable and inimitable story of a country, a secret society and a family --- each with their own turbulences and moments of luster, each informed by their lives and their deaths."

At the time we meet the Order, during the early to mid-1980s, there is a sense of tension and upheaval throughout the cult. The current medium, Juan, is the sole person able to commune with and summon the “Darkness,” the dark lord who grants the Order their power and brings both life and death in equal order, each with the promise of immortality. While the Order acknowledges that Juan was chosen by the Darkness and is therefore not only worthy of the task but made for it, the strain of calling forth the Darkness has weakened him. This, on top of his pre-existing heart condition, means that he is likely to go mad or die as a result of the pressure.

There is hope, though. Juan has a young son, Gaspar, who, if he exhibits the gifts of the medium, can be the heir to Juan’s gift. Even if he does not possess the same all-seeing eye or ability to commune with the dead, his body can act as a vessel for Juan and allow him to continue acting as the voice of the Darkness. It’s a win-win for the Order, but a lose-lose for Juan, who wants Gaspar to live a normal, pain-free life, and for Gaspar himself, who has started to exhibit signs of the medium but finds his father increasingly close-mouthed about what is happening to him.

When we meet Juan and Gaspar, they are on the run, both still reeling from the recent death of Juan’s wife and Gaspar’s mother, Rosario Reyes Bradford. Juan believes she was murdered or otherwise taken by the Order. As the heiress to the Order, Rosario held a unique position in the cult, one that granted her special whims and observances but also likely led to her untimely passing. Juan, deteriorating from the sickness of summoning the Darkness and still desperately performing rituals and rites in hopes of gaining contact with his dead wife, is determined to make sure that Gaspar does not meet the same fate.

In long, simmering chapters, Enriquez exposes the catch-22 of Juan’s position: not only must he perform dangerous sacrifices and enchantments to protect his son, he needs to convince Gaspar --- who he loves deeply, endlessly --- that the strange occurrences he has started to see are all in his head. He must never know the truth about his father’s illnesses, what happened to his mother or where the rest of her family is hidden. This contradiction, powered by a father’s love, forms the striking, prescient throughline of the novel, especially as Juan is pushed to his limit and forced to ask himself how much he is willing to sacrifice to keep his son safe.

As the Order’s power and demands on Juan grow, and as Gaspar insists on some answers, Juan realizes that he must take dramatic steps to protect his son. This means turning ambiguous, mean and cruel in order to push Gaspar away and ensure that he will never again seek answers about his mother or the Order, even after Juan succumbs to his various illnesses, both physical and spiritual.

But the struggle of Juan’s sacrifice is not the only story here: even the darkest, most unforgivable inhumanities of the Order are hiding something. Because the novel takes place during the years immediately following Argentina’s military dictatorship, whispers of the Disappeared --- tens of thousands of men, women and children who disappeared under mysterious circumstances and with no record of their fates --- form a chorus in the background of the horrors of the Order. The fact that these wealthy occultists have been able to perform perverse experiments on Indigenous children and sacrifice scores of healthy men and women is thanks, in part, to Argentina’s willingness, after so many years of corruption, to look the other way. As Gaspar grows up and is forced to accept his occultist legacy, so too must he (and the reader) reckon with the complex, dangerous history of Argentina and whether or not anything new or hopeful can be built on such bloody ground.

Moving between London in the 1960s to war-torn and turbulent 1970s Argentina all the way through the early 1990s, OUR SHARE OF NIGHT is an indelible, unforgettable and inimitable story of a country, a secret society and a family --- each with their own turbulences and moments of luster, each informed by their lives and their deaths. The love of father and son sings through every page. Juxtaposed with the gratuitous horrors (trust me, there are images you’ll wish you could wash from your brain, but the gore is worth it) that Enriquez imagines, the effect is startling and nearly unspeakable. At an unwieldy 608 pages, the book can meander at times with some of its observations --- scenes not focused on Juan or Gaspar tend to feel flat or underwritten --- but when it succeeds it does so unflinchingly, vividly and downright chillingly.

For readers looking for a taste of what Enriquez is capable of in her socially aware, emotionally complex horror, I highly recommend THE DANGERS OF SMOKING IN BED. Once you read that, you’ll be itching to settle down with this tome, a unique and perception-altering experience that is certainly not for the faint of heart.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on February 18, 2023

Our Share of Night
written by Mariana Enriquez, translated by Megan McDowell