I can't remember the last time I woke up and the first thing I wanted to reach for was my book, but after Marianne Engel showed up in the burn ward, I kept The Gargoyle on my bedside table until the day I finished it.
I was skeptical about whether I could actually like the unnamed (I can't find or remember any point at which his name is used) narrator who is burned in a car accident, the result of drug-induced hallucinations. He supplies his background in the beginning of the story, not quite suggesting that it's justification for how he chose to live his life, but clearly wanting readers to come to that conclusion. His character teeters on the edge of unbelievable.
In fact, the book was just about tossed on the "Nevermind" pile--until Marianne Engel showed up in the hospital burn ward. And though she is even more over-the-top than the narrator, the reader is drawn to her; she is the ballast in the story.
The narrator's voice has some very strange moments of instability--some lines just seem unbelievable, even from this nameless, oft poetic, burnt man. Most of the instability occurs before Marianne's character shows up, and then again in the end. At first I thought that maybe the the author was just in a hurry, that he got careless with the end of his story. But in retrospect, the destabilizing of his voice makes sense.
The tale he tells is a fantastic one--or, rather many. He tells us the tales that Marianne tells him, even as he tells us his (which has become their) story. Yes, it borders on metafiction; he even has moments when he addresses the reader directly and talks about telling his story, which I find most disconcerting, because those moments don't happen with any particular regularity. Overall, the weaving of the different stories is most satisfying; I wasn't ready for the stories to stop being told, a tribute to Marianne's storytelling skills, not unlike Sheharazad's, I imagine. The Gargoyle is a book of despair, love, hope, faith and redemption. It's a great romance without the bodice-ripping--which makes it the best kind.
Add this book to your wish list, top priority--it will be released on August 5.
(Thanks to Harper Collins for sending me an ARC to review.)