When our unnamed narrator is recovering in a burn ward from a fiery car crash, his one constant visitor is one he doesn't know but who has known him...for 700 years. Her name is Marianne Engel and she is a patient at the hospital’s psych ward.
Thus begins The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, a love story that moves from the present to the past as Marianne tells the story of how they first met at the Engelthal monastery in Germany. He was a mercenary brought to the monastery to die from burns and an arrow wound sustained in battle; she was a brilliant, young scribe who had been left abandoned as a baby on the monastery doorsteps. She immediately starts regaling him with stories of how they met, loved, sacrificed, and died.
The present-day Marianne is a beautiful sculptress who frees gargoyles from blocks of stone because they call out to her. She takes the narrator into her home and nurses him back to health and sanity as she falls deeper into insanity. But is she insane? And did they really live other lives 700 years ago?
The stories Marianne tells her lover to take his mind off his pain and self-loathing are like beautiful fables of another time, full of history and lore from Japan, Italy, England, and Iceland, and include characters that the narrator may or may not have the pleasure of meeting on a future fevered journey.
What, you might think, has Marianne been doing for the past 700 years? She had 1,000 hearts from God to give away before the final meeting with her lover, who must accept her last heart so that she can finally be released from this world.
It is up to the reader to decide if Marianne’s story is true or just the tall tales of a woman bent on destruction. The proof is scant: an unexplained childhood scar above the narrator’s heart and two ancient translations of Dante’s Inferno. Believe some of it, all of it, or none of it.
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Andrew Davidson shares his favorite love story from The Gargoyle: