The Gargoyle is a brutal story about a man terribly disfigured in a car crash, burned to an almost unrecognizable crisp following an alcohol and cocaine binge. Incongruously, it’s also about timeless love.
The nameless narrator may have been burned beyond recognition, but Maryanne Engel knows him. They’ve never met before, at least that he can remember, but she finds him in his recovery room and helps nurse him back to health through endless skin grafting, morphine doses, and physical therapy.
Maryanne is many things—an artist, a sculptor, a storyteller, a fantastic cook, and a tattooed schizophrenic. As Maryanne helps the narrator overcome his inclinations toward suicide and substance abuse, she gradually fills him in on their past romances. Davidson’s story mixes violence in the present with destruction in the past, conveying the intense connection that Maryanne feels about the man she perceives as her soulmate.
At times jarring, at times hopeless, at times saturated with a sense of inevitability, Maryanne’s stories are captivating and the narrator finds himself thoroughly dependent on her. Until, inevitably, the tables are turned and the narrator finds he must take care of Maryanne, trying everything he can think of to pull her out of her own spiral toward self-destruction. Davidson’s debut novel is a riveting page-turner. I’m hoping he’s hard at work on something equally fascinating.