Posted at Shelf Inflicted
I’m usually suspicious of over-hyped books, but a friend at the library highly recommended it.
A short way into the story, the narrator’s mom dies, his grandmother dies, he gets severely burned in a car accident, and his aunt and uncle die. I felt beat over the head with all the suffering and seriously thought about giving up reading by page 50. Then Marianne Engel, a woman with a history of mental illness, shows up in the nameless narrator’s hospital room telling a story about her previous life in medieval Germany. That was the hook that drew me in.
The story jumps back and forth between stories about Marianne’s life as a nun and scribe, the narrator’s past as a mercenary soldier, and the tragic lives and loves of other people from different places that Marianne has known. The contemporary part of the story deals with Marianne's passion for creating gargoyles, the narrator’s treatment and recovery from his burns, his drug addiction, former career in pornography, his growing friendship with his psychiatrist and physical therapist, and his love for Marianne.
The thing that bothers me most is the narrator’s seemingly hasty transition from a drug-addicted, sex-addicted, selfish, friendless porn star to a man who finally develops a soul after he becomes smitten with a mentally ill woman who tells him stories. This flaw was relatively easy to overlook, as I too, was swept away by Marianne’s stories - the religious imagery, literary references and beautiful, tragic tales of love that felt so very real.
Highly original, magical, heart wrenching, and a real treat!