The most astonishing thing about It Would Be Night in Caracas, written by Karina Sainz Borgo, and translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer, is how quickly society tips from relatively stable to pure chaos. Set against the backdrop of a worsening Venezuelan economy caused by a drop in oil prices, this work of fiction gives a glimpse into the violence that roils Caracas and ultimately causes Adelaida Falcon, the quiet narrator of this story told in clear language and prose, to make decisions that seem both unthinkable and necessary for survival.
We meet Adelaida as she prepares to bury her mother. The loss of her mother is significant as it becomes apparent that they had faced the world together, alone. They seem to be middle class, fairly educated and modest people. We learn that Adelaida’s mother was unceremoniously dumped by Adelaida’s father, who had no wish to be a father, that Adelaida’s childhood was a lonely one, and that she earns a living as an editor, though that living is rapidly threatened by the strife turning the country inside out. We also learn exactly what a country in chaos looks and sounds like — gunshots, small fires burning, a roving militia made up of civilians daring ordinary citizens to come outside, much to their peril.
When the elder Adelaida Falcon dies, the younger is forced to navigate this chaos by herself, Caracas becoming overrun by gangs of thugs who ruthlessly take over apartments and turn them into squats, using them as staging areas for whatever criminal activities they are running. Adelaida takes refuge in her own apartment until she no longer can. And that’s when things start to tip, and fast.
If you, like me, knew little and understood even less, about the Venezuelan crisis (spoiler alert: it’s oil, always oil. Stay tuned for my review of Blowout by Rachel Maddow) before reading this book, you will not come away with a greater understanding of the underpinnings of the crisis but you will certainly be attuned to the impact on Venezuelan society. Karina Sainz Borgo’s spare writing style still manages to be incredibly vivid, and your heart will beat faster as the end comes nearer.
It Would Be Night in Caracas, translated from the Spanish, is published by HarperCollins’ new international imprint, HarperVia, who sent me a copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own, and honest.
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