The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Gargoyle cover art

Title: The Gargoyle
Author: Andrew Davindson
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 9780385524940
Release Date: 08/05/08

My rating: 5 stars, two thumbs way up, and all my toes wigglin’!

 

…Christmas Day had shown me that Marianne Engel’s love was not feeble.  It was strapping, it was muscular, it was massive.  I thought that it could fill only my room in the burn ward, but it filled the entire hospital.  More important, her love was not reserved only for me; it was shared generously with strangers…

Andrew Davidson’s first novel, The Gargoyle, is incredibly haunting and beautiful tale of a love that has lasted 700 years.  It is unfathomable that this is the author’s first book, because Davidson writes with such depth, detail, and flow many writers take years to accomplish.

Summary:

The Gargoyle is the story about a man whose life has been complete crap: His father split before he was born, his mother died giving birth to him, his grandma died pushing him in a playground swing, and at 6 years old he goes to live with his doped-out, only remaining relatives, the Graces.  When their trailer blows up with them in it cooking their meth, The Man is suddenly alone in the world, spending the rest of his “childhood” in a group home called “Second Chance House”.  The Man questions, however when he’d had his first chance. 

After aging out of the system, he sets about making a living doing the only thing he is skilled at, sex, and becomes a coked out, heroin shooting,  porn star.  But a near fatal car accident brings and end to all that.  So at 37, he is bankrupt, and without any possessions as the creditors took and sold it all.  He is covered on much of his body with burns that render him a bit of a monstrosity with assorted apendages having been amputated -including the one most important to a man.  It is at this point he decides he will commit suicide. 

THEN, into the burn ward walks Marianne Engel, who has known and loved him since she first met him almost 700 years ago.  She is quickly whisked back to the psych ward from which she has wandered, but something about her sticks.  When The Man is released from the hospital, Marianne takes him into her home and nurses him back to health, regaling him with the tale of their first life together, along with the lives of a few other fateful lovers: the Japanese maiden and her love, a Viking apprentice in love with his manly teacher, an Italian ironworker and his plague-victim wife, and society victorian lady and her farmer husband.

The unanswered question throughout the book is: Is Marianne schizophrenic (or some other mental illness), or is she telling the truth, that she has lived 700 years?  It is a mystical, epic tale, with the questions of the existence of God, Hell, and real love are left for the reader to decide.

How this book affected me:

The Gargoyle has all the angst and emotions of a Gothic love story, with the quest for spiritual understanding of Mystic writings, and the in-your-face reality and carnage of our modern life.  It draws you in, sings to you, challenges you, then ends justly, in the only way it can.  Magical, mystical, beautiful, horrific, heartbreaking, hopeful -all are descriptions of The Gargoyle.

There are humorous events, one particular one made me think of my dad.  My father had diabetes and had occasions to go into the hospital.  He also had cancer the last two years of his life, granting him many more chances to experience the wonders of hospital life.  In one passage where the narrator describes a test of his tactile senses, the man’s response reminded me so much of my dad:

Next, to guage sensation in various parts of my body, she jabbed at me with a goddamn stick and asked how it felt.  I told her it felt like she was jabbing me with a goddamn stick.  Oh, how she laughed; what a fine comedian I was.

There are so many things that I loved about this book, I could write a book about it.  The possibility of reincarnated loves finding one another in the next life.  The stories Marianne tells to prove to the man that everlasting and unconditional love exists and is possible.  The concept of Hell building off Dante’s, yet completely tailored specofic for The Man.

One of the biggest curiousities for me, besides the obvious ones, is:  Why does Davidson never name his main character?  That may be the hardest question of all to answer.

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