In the Midnight Room

Written by Laura McBride
Review by Jessica Brockmole

In the Midnight Room is a complex and layered story about four women’s lives—sometimes passing, sometimes intersecting—throughout the second half of the 20th century in Las Vegas, Nevada.

McBride writes a story full of Las Vegas history, from the early, tenacious days of gangsters and casinos to the sprawling and diverse present-day city. It starts and ends with June, the brash and impulsive wife of a casino owner, who makes a decision in 1960 that changes the trajectory of her life and comes back to haunt her fifty years later. Weaving in and out of June’s world, decades later, are other women, all carrying secrets and burdens of their own: Coral, a music teacher who’d always wondered how she fit in with her close-knit family; Honorata, a mail-order bride from the Philippines who wins one night in June’s casino; and Engracia, a young Mexican immigrant working first in June’s casino and later in Honorata’s house.

It is, at its heart, a story of womanhood and motherhood, of the relationships women build (and sometimes tenuously hold on to) with their children, their mothers, each other. The lives of June, Coral, Honorata, and Engracia are often disjointed and meandering, compelling the reader to continue reading just for the realistic mundanity of it all. This monotony of daily routine, of Sunday dinners, of work and church and tamping down secrets best left unsaid, lulls the reader before the unexpected and tense climax, one that comes a full hundred and fifty pages from the end and resolves itself on a questioning note that may or may not sit well with readers. Whether the characters alone are strong enough to bring the story to that crisis and, full circle, back to June, is something each reader must alone consider.