If the first scene of this debut novel doesn’t grab you by the throat, then no opening scene ever will. In The Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson has penned a riveting, haunting, beautifully crafted, and starkly original novel.
The Gargoyle’s nameless protagonist, a handsome drug-addicted pornographer, is burned in a car accident to the point of freakish disfigurement. Confined to a hospital, abandoned by his so-called friends, he suffers a long year of brutal—and baldly depicted—surgeries, treatments, and physical therapy. One day, a lovely visitor wanders out of the psych ward. Marianne is unafraid of his appearance, and claims to have known him in the 14th century. When not hospitalized, she supports herself well by carving gargoyles—although she describes the process as ‘releasing a gargoyle from the stone,’ and giving it one of her hearts. She carries these hearts in her chest, she tells him, and she has only so many left: The last heart is for him. As the hero struggles with his growing enchantment with an apparent madwoman, Marianne plies him with gourmet meals. She regales him with old, exotic, romantic tales, and unfolds the story of how they both met in medieval Germany. Her unflinching affection lures the suicidal protagonist away from dark thoughts, as she coaxes his tormented spirit down a long, difficult road—literally, through hell—into resounding redemption.
Andrew Davidson has written a book that is brutally realistic, yet otherworldly; impossibly romantic, yet without syrup, sentimentality, or sex. The past and the present are as tightly woven as the real and the imaginary, and striking images resonate throughout the story. The Gargoyle is simply the loveliest, most fully realized novel this reviewer has experienced in years.