Synopsis: The mesmerizing story of one man’s descent into personal hell and his quest for salvation.
On a dark road in the middle of the night, a car plunges into a ravine. The driver survives the crash, but his injuries confine him to a hospital burn unit. There the mysterious Marianne Engel, a sculptress of grotesques, enters his life. She insists they were lovers in medieval Germany, when he was a mercenary and she was a scribe in the monastery of Engelthal. As she spins the story of their past lives together, the man’s disbelief falters; soon, even the impossible can no longer be dismissed.
5 out of 5 stars.
Every once in a while a book comes along that is everything you hope for when you start reading. It’s beautiful and tragic and funny and sad. It touches you in unexpected ways, and each time you read it, and you do read it over and over, you get something new. This is one of those books for me.
The Gargoyle, on the surface, is a beautifully unconventional love story between a former porn star and a sculptress. It has so many layers and stories within the story that it’s hard to categorize it.
The story begins with our unnamed narrator crashing his car, drunk and high. At the bottom of the ravine his car bursts into flames, and he wakes in the burn unit of the hospital.
Davidson does an amazing job of describing the fire and the narrator’s burning and recovery. It’s graphic without being gory and we are taken though the process of what happens when someone is burned over 80% of their body. While in the hospital actively planning his suicide, he meets Marianne Engel. Marianne claims to have known and loved him for over 700 years.
He is warned by the hospital staff that she is a psychiatric patient and thought to be both schizophrenic and bipolar. While he in recovery, she is with him and begins to tell him the story of their previous lives together. After he is well enough to leave, she takes him home to her estate where she lives and carves her gargoyles and grotesques. In her, he finds a reason to live.
What I liked: I loved the intertwining of the stories – the past and the present. The narrator’s rehabilitation and the stories Marianne tells him of the times he has been burned before and where the scar on his chest came from – the scar he was born with. As the narrator begins his ascent from his personal hell of pain, Marianne begins her descent into her own hell as she begins carving at a manic pace that she can’t possibly sustain.
So much research has gone into this book to make sure that the back story is correct. The burn recovery, to the Japanese language translations, to medieval manuscript creations – each has been so thoroughly researched that the book is seamless.
What I didn’t like: Nothing. I love everything about this book.
The Gargoyle is the story about a beautiful man with an ugly soul finding redemption and love after he is burned beyond recognition. While we are never sure if Marianne is really 700 years old or just thinks she is, we are willing to believe because her story is so real. If I could give more than five stars, I would.