I always find it hard to write about a book I really loved. “Sultry, Is the Night” by Barbara Avon is one of those books. That’s why, although I finished reading it a while ago, I couldn’t simply scribble a few lines saying “oh, what a great read”. It deserves more.
Mario’s story is raw and absolutely heartbreaking. I could feel his pain, his desperation so acutely. Probably, because I know how it feels when you get thrown out of the beautiful, cosy life you were used to, and the new circumstances you find yourself in are too bleak to try to wrap your head around them. When it happens, you stop living, and everything you can do is drift along with the flow. Some drown, not having enough strength to reach calmer waters.
That’s what I was thinking about while reading. Will Mario make it to a safer, brighter shore? Will the next punch from fate destroy him? I often wonder how to put into words that special thing that makes some people endure and overcome the harshest hardships. It’s a true superpower, for if a person lacks it, he/she drowns.
The author draws a picture of a town’s degradation masterfully. I could feel the odours penetrating the buildings and the streets. The odours that come with dilapidation. I’ve witnessed it happening, and the saddest thing about it is that since your own life dilapidates along with unused edifices, you have neither emotional strength nor time to give the situation a proper thought. This is if you try to run out of this situation, fighting and still hoping – somewhere deep inside, since on the surface, you’ve lost any hope – that you’ll have your old, beautiful life back. If you don’t, you simply don’t care.
Despite the popular slogan about a man being the sole master of his destiny, it is usually the other human being that helps you stay afloat. And for Mario, it is exactly the case. Not one, but even two people enter his life with what seems a purpose from above to help him swim and reach the shore. But it can never be that easy, can’t it?
After all his dreams have been shattered, Mario finds himself alone in a world that doesn’t care a bit about him. He has no hope for a better future. The world doesn’t care that you were kind and caring; it demands from you to obey its rules. And if you don’t, you miss the opportunities the world egoistically and coldly offers – only to those who play by its rules.
Mario feels that his dreams about working in a restaurant aren’t meant to come true. He feels unworthy of love. He feels undeserving of trust. And still, there is that special spark in him that makes him grab every opportunity that promises – no matter how feebly – that he can get all these things.
“Sultry, Is the Night” is not an easy book for reading. It’s not a shiny little story wrapped up in a flashy paper that says “there is a lesson inside, kids, but you won’t get hurt while learning it”. Reading this book, you will get hurt. You will feel sadness, compassion, revulsion – the whole specter of emotions. I certainly did feel all of them, and I’m deeply grateful to the author for making me take this rollercoaster ride with her deep, controversial characters and beautiful writing.