by Andrew Davidson
The story begins with the book's unnamed narrator surviving a horrific and fiery car crash that leaves him permanently scarred. In the hospital, he is visited by a sculptor of gargoyles and grotesques named Marianne Engel, a mentally ill woman who claims that they were lovers in Germany... 700 years ago.
The narrator is eventually released into Marianne's care, where she tends to his healing wounds and continues to weave stories about love in Italy, England, Japan, Iceland, and Germany. But Marianne also believes that she has been assigned a task from God... and when that task is finished, so will be her time on earth.
I've had this book sitting on my bedside table for ages. It had been on my wishlist and I found the hardcover for an incredible bargain (less than $3). However, I'd read some reviews that said that the beginning was so horrifyingly graphic that it was traumatic. I was then afraid to pick up the book, for fear I'd have nightmares. Without getting into too much detail, I suspect that those reviews were written by men. I'll just leave it at that (but I will say that I've actually read more graphic scenes in some YA books).
It states on the book jacket that the author spent seven years researching this book. It shows. The depiction of life (and death) in the burn unit was compelling, fascinating, and unnerving. At the end of it all, you have a new respect for anyone who has had to go through such an ordeal. There were also a great deal of historical tidbits woven through Marianne's stories. I can only imagine how much research was required to get everything right.
The story pulled me along, and I loved watching the main character change. He started out as a drug-addicted pornographer so, really, the only place to go was up. But watching him get there was amazing, and his relationships with the other characters really helped with the journey.
Ultimately, I liked the book... but I wasn't crazy about the ending. As I was reading the book, I had a few theories as to what was actually going on (all of which would have pushed the book into the contemporary fantasy category instead of... contemporary romance?). But because of the narrator's beliefs (or lack thereof... he was a self-described atheist), those elements were never really explored, and he never asked the right questions of Marianne. As a result, I found the ending to be much less satisfying than it could have been; certain things were hinted at which would explain some of the unasked questions, but they were never spelled out. I got the feeling that we were supposed to draw our own conclusions... but I'm really not a fan of books that do that. If it's that important to the story, we shouldn't have to guess.
The writing was good, the story was intriguing, the characters were well developed, and the book certainly made me think. So, overall, I would recommend it to others. I just wish I had gotten a little more satisfaction from the ending, after that amazing journey.
Overall: 3.8 out of 5