First time Canadian author Andrew Davidson’s novel The Gargoyle is an intriguing, unexpected story. The narrator, who is never given a name, is an unapologetic drug addict and pornographer who admits that he has never known love. He is driving in a drug-induced haze when his car sails off of a cliff into the ravine below. He is severely burned and narrowly escapes death. As he lays in his hospital bed he plans his suicide in detail, believing that he could never live with what his body has become.
Marianne Engel, a temporary patient in the psychiatric ward, enters his room one day and speaks to him as if she knows him, though he has never seen her before. She claims that she was born in the year 1300 and that they had been married when they both lived in Medieval Germany. She is a sculptor of stone gargoyles and she says that the talent does not belong to her but that she is guided by God to produce her statues. Though the narrator thinks that she must be mentally ill, he is nevertheless drawn to her and to the stories that she tells him. They become close and when he is released from the hospital she takes him into her home. Unfortunately he continues his addictions, this time to morphine, and has a hard time letting go of his lifetime habits.
This book centers on the gradual redemption of the narrator’s soul and the fulfillment of Marianne Engel’s life purpose. The author weaves in references to and instances from Dante’s Inferno that illustrate the narrator’s hellish journey from his pre-accident immoral life to the ultimate decision that redeems him.
I found this book well written with vividly described scenes and interesting historical detail. The storyline was fascinating, though the ending stops short of answering all of the reader’s questions. It is among the most unique novels that I have ever read.
The Gargoyle is scheduled to be published on August 5, 2008 by Doubleday.