I started loving books about prisons when I was about fifteen, when I picked up The Green Mile by Stephen King, which is still one of my all-time favorites. I then moved onto The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King and I am now beginning to read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (which one is technically a short story and the other isn’t technically about a prison, but you get the idea). They are just so gritty and dark, yet hopeful and understanding, usually saying more about life and death through the tales of those who are vulnerable enough to really understand their existential value, than you get out of most books.
So it wasn’t surprising when I fell in love with At Midnight by Javier Arzuaga, a book I absolutely adore for three reasons. First of all, the book’s plot itself is fascinating; it is a true account of Arzuaga’s experience as a Catholic priest at La Cabaña, the prison where the accomplices of the overthrown dictator after the Cuban Revolution were held. Arzuaga’s job was to console those who were sent to be executed. Through the process of Arzuaga consoling fifty-five men sent to death, he shares his thoughts on life, death, God and religion, from the perspective of someone whose job it is to deal with these existential topics constantly.
The second reason is this is the first book I had ever read before it was published and it was downright magical seeing the process of publication and seeing something materialize from just words on a screen become a book. It is one nice looking book as well, with the artwork making you feel as though you are walking through the door to the afterlife.
The third reason I loved this book is that, unlike The Green Mile or The Shawshank Redemption, At Midnight a true account, which adds a whole new level to it. Not only is it interesting that this actually happened, but since Arzuaga was an actual person, instead of a character, it gives it a sense of irony and comfort that you can’t get from a fictional book; that the author, who had to deal with so much death, has an afterlife through his accounts of life and death.
NOTE from BasqueBooksEditor: Welcome to Carly Sauvageau. Carly is a journalism student here at UNR and has joined the team as our student assistant—and the latest contributor to the Basque Books Blog! Welcome aboard Carly and thanks for sharing your thoughts about this amazing book with us! All you all out there, if you don’t have a copy of At Midnight, you should get one soon 🙂