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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Book Discussion Monday: "The Gargoyle"

"The Gargoyle" is the first novel of a Canadian author named Andrew Davidson, born (by Canadian standards) not far from me in the small town of Pinawa, Manitoba. This book captured my imagination from page one. As I tried to compile a few cogent thoughts and questions for today, I found it almost impossible to pick just a few.

The book has themes of sin and redemption, transformation, mysticism, the timeless nature of both human and divine love, mental health, mental illness, just to name a few. The richness of Davidson's storytelling reaches back into time and history. I found myself wishing I had a copy of Dante's "Inferno" lying around, but alas, that's one of those "must read once I'm retired" books. Or at least it has been until now!

Here is a brief quote by the author Andrew Davidson about the book itself:

"I wrote the book because I had to write it." He has said the book "is the story of a severe burn survivor who, while recovering, meets a schizophrenic woman who claims that they were lovers in 14th-century Germany, when she was a nun and he was a mercenary." His Toronto publisher, Anne Collins of Random House, calls it a "book of incredible erudition subsumed by a love story that crosses centuries."

There is so much depth to this novel. I love the mystical references especially. This quote from the character of Marianne in chapter five is one of my favourites from the book: "God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere"

The story is very involved and covers several times and places, but essentially, a handsome male "adult" movie star is terribly burned in a car accident, and while his body is healing, a woman comes into his life whose presence begins a lengthy process of healing his soul. The two meet in the hospital ward, but when she is at home, the woman Marianne is actually a sculptress. She carves gargoyles. She has been "assigned" to carve twenty five of them before she dies. Here (in part) is what she says about her creative process:

"I absorb the dreams of the stone, and the gargoyles inside [the stone] tell me what I need to do to free them. They reveal their faces and show me what I must take away to make them whole."

Question: Have you ever felt that way about "carving out" during a creative process, be it your own future, a work of art, or perhaps even a sermon? Have you ever felt as if a text was like the stone, waiting for you to free the meaning held within it?

At its heart, "The Gargoyle" is a love story. The book begins with a quote by German mystic Meister Eckhart in a sermon entitled "Eternal Birth":

"Love is as strong as death, as hard as Hell. Death separates the soul from the body, but love separates all things from the soul."

Question: How do you interpret Eckhart's words? In what way would you say that love separates all things from the soul? I personally still find myself spiritually 'chewing' on that one....

The main character in the book, the man who is so terribly burned and disfigured, had issues with showing, accepting and giving love long before his accident. For me, the greatest achievement of the book is the redemption of this character and the way that Marianne was able to 'carve away' whatever stone was enclosing his heart's ability to love.

He says, speaking to Marianne, "Being burned was the best thing that ever happened to me because it brought you.....You have said that it takes so much for me to believe anything, but I do believe. I believe in your love for me. I believe in my love for you. I believe that every remaining beat of my heart belongs to you, and I believe that when I finally leave this world, my last breath will carry your name. I believe that my final word - Marianne - will be all I need to know that my life was good and full and worthy, and I believe that our love will last forever."

As she walks away from him toward the sea, Marianne responds: "See? You do have God."

Question: Has there been a time in your own life when another person has incarnated the divine and pure love of God? Did it help you at a time of doubt and questioning? Or did it affirm what you already knew about God's abiding presence?

I know.

It's Lent. Everyone's busy. Please feel free to comment or ask questions about the book and I'll do my best to respond. If you haven't read the book yet, I do highly recommend it. And I'll totally understand if you can't get to it until after Easter!



  1. Sue, thanks so much for this view into a fascinating book.
    I want to note that we've had repeated spam comments on this post today, and your moderators are doing their best to keep up with them. This is the price we pay for allowing anonymous comments. I apologize if any of you have been exposed to the spam.

  2. Haven't seen any so far Songbird. Thanks to all the moderators for being so vigilant about spam.

  3. um, whatever whatever.

  4. It's really been non-stop today, Sue! I'm sorry about it.

  5. I have requested it from the library and will be back here to comment as soon as I get it! Thanks, Sue!

  6. I hope you enjoy it Mary Beth. It really is a very rich and interesting read with plenty of really interesting religious/mystic themes.


  7. No worries Songbird - I understand. It's a busy time for so many people.

  8. Hi Sue,
    Well, I'm here a week late to say thanks for suggesting this - I'd hope by now that I would have read it, since I got a while ago anticipateing this discussion. So, I've started the it, but then I've started quite a few books lately, so no idea when I'll get to the rest of it. But, goodness! the first 50 pages sure are attention grabbers! Cant wait to dive in and finish the rest - maybe on my week off at the end of April.

  9. just got the book from library! Whee! will comment soonest.

  10. boy, I'm late, but I just finished it and it is wonderful! Thanks so much


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