Review: Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez

My Quick Take: A fever dream of a book, it was odd and grotesque…and well worth a read.

Translated by Megan McDowell

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Books/Hogarth Books for this digital ARC in exchange for my unbiased review.

“There were a lot of echoes now. It was always like that in a massacre, the effect like screams in a cave–they remained for a while until time put an end to them. There was a long way to go until that end, and the restless dead were moving quickly, they wanted to be seen. ‘The dead travel fast,’ he thought.”

There are several factors that lead to me picking up any given book to read. In this case, lots of factors converged. First, the cover! It grabbed me. I appreciate great cover art, and am trying to give it more credit, but I like to think it doesn’t influence me that much. In this case, it absolutely did. It is done by Donna Cheng, with interior art by Pablo Gerardo Camacho

Secondly, the author’s work is celebrated. Argentine writer Enriquez has published two story collections in English: Things We Lost in the Fire and The Dangers of Smoking in Bed (a finalist for the International Booker Prize and the Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, among others). I haven’t read them, but I’ve heard of them and wanted to read her work.

Finally, I love horror, and this seemed horrible and weird, from the description.

As per my usual MO, I didn’t read too much about the book before diving into it. I realized it was over 600 pages long and would take a while to read. I didn’t read it quickly; rather, I took my time with it, reading it a bit at a time over two weeks. This was a good choice because it kept me interested, and reading slowly gave me time to let the book settle in my brain.

It needed to settle a bit, because the tone and pacing varied throughout. Set in Argentina, it’s the story of Gaspar, at first a young boy living with his father Juan. It spans from the story of Gaspar’s parents in the 1960s, to 1997 when Gaspar is in his mid-twenties. Important characters flit in and out of the fractured time-line, and there are different points of view throughout. The one unifying story is of Gaspar and his family over the years. The horror here is The Order, a cult that worships the Darkness; it pulls at Gaspar and his parents, haunting them and permeating into everyone they know.

The setting is relevant to this novel. The first parts take place during Argentina’s military junta years from 1976 to 1983, then continue in its aftermath. This was a bloody, turbulent time, and it is estimated that up to 30,000 people, mostly opponents of the regime such as young unionists, students and political activists, were killed, or “disappeared.” The wealthy, the elite, and even foreign governments such as the US and its CIA, supported the junta.

The story felt visceral yet disconnected at the same time, the way a dream sometimes does. There is emotion–in this case horror, disgust and fear–but there is also a sense of remove, just like in a dream. The content is often horrible, but the words on the page are sometimes dispassionate, reflecting the casual cruelty of the Order. Then, sometimes the horror does feel real, usually when told from the point of view of Gaspar, or one of his friends. The depth of the depravity is abhorrent at times. This book is not for the easily triggered: there are some pretty awful scenes of child abuse, so do be aware before reading.

That said, there are times when the story is more factual, filling in the background and giving context, which took some time to emerge. However, I liked how at the beginning the reader is dropped into the middle of Juan and Gaspar’s dealings with the Order and its Darkness. We have to navigate without a map for some time. It added mystery, and enhanced the fear of the unknown.

One pleasure of this book was how, as I sat with it after reading, themes emerged. I found myself jotting notes down in my journal as I contemplated the Darkness and its implications. I realize that the Darkness may be a metaphor for the exploiters; their quest for power; and the selfishness required to sustain it. More specifically, the abuse of power and the exploitation of the poor, the indigenous, the colonized, and those who speak out against injustice. In this novel, the wealthiest colonizers and land owners of Argentina are the heads of The Order and worship the Darkness. They need a Medium to channel the Darkness, and this had traditionally been a person from the underclass in society. The Order is dependent on the exploited person for their wealth and power, so they need to dominate.

The more I thought about it, the more I saw the universal relevance of the struggle here. As I was reading, I wondered if I'd get more from it if I knew details about Argentinian politics, and perhaps that’s true. However, this theme is timeless and occurs the world over, no matter where you look. The haves and the have-nots. Interestingly, it’s easy to dismiss the exploiters as someone I’d never be, and group oneself with the “good” folks in the book, but honestly, that’s not completely true. Most of us, in some way, are the exploiters, or at least somewhere in between.

It isn’t a perfect book, but it doesn’t need to be to be enjoyed. The pacing can tend towards the slightly uneven, and again, there is some very horrific abuse on the page, so this will not be suitable for every reader.

I’m thoroughly glad that I read it, and plan to read Enriquez’ short story collections.



“They were cannibals under the moon, mud-caked and smelling of river.”

“That night I don’t dream of bones, but I do dream of a huge darkness over the lake, a fat storm heavy with hail.”

“They sought me out, here I am. I don’t know how to let go of the dead.”