Andrew Davidson’s debut novel, The Gargoyle involves an unnamed narrator who is a burn victim from an automobile accident, leaving him little more than a husk of a living man. His past as a porn star, which led to him becoming a producer of that content, serves as a haunting memory of the pleasures of the flesh he will never know again. He's also a drug addict. Yet in the midst of this depressing state of affairs a beautiful, eccentric woman comes to him, insisting that they were lovers centuries before, which he dismisses out of hand. This is Maryanne Engle.
Maryanne Engle’s devotion to him cannot be ignored. Her dedication to him becomes the engine and pathway to his many months of painstaking healing in the hospital, and later in her home, an edifice evoking the feeling of a medieval castle. Her commitment to him, however, is challenged by her enduring passion which is fueled by a religious sense of duty and destiny: her sculpting of stone gargoyles. Between her days-long obsessive creativity cycles, she shares different stories with him, one of which is the serialized account of their story together. He was a mercenary in medieval Germany, and she was a nun at convent whose fame for mystics was widely known, and their scriptorium renowned for producing great works. When he becomes wounded in battle, his life expectancy nil, he is brought to the convent as a last effort at healing, and she becomes his caretaker. Their story in the book intertwines in the present and the past, as each takes care of the other in some measure, while the narrator of the present day story continues to cast doubt on the entire narrative. Yet with his history in the present of being a user of people and situations he finds himself when all other hope is lost, that a heart grows inside him with profound and resonating feelings for her.
I hesitate to give more details, because the journey is the thing in this read. It’s not formulaic in any way. It’s a story that refuses to follow traditional routes, yet ends with a satisfying and resonant closure. A rich, entertaining, insightful and enlightening read.