This is one hell of a novel. It starts out a bit rough, what with the narrator describing such excruciating details as how his skin reacted to the gasoline-fueled fire that raged as a result of a horrific car crash, or his drug- and sex-addled upbringing that lead him to a lucrative career in the porn industry, or the process of debridement, the shaving off of scabby, dead skin from burned flesh. All of this is a little nausea inducing, but what comes out of the fire is just spectacular.
Enduring months and months of treatment in a hospital's burn ward, the nameless narrator is suddenly visited by a woman from the psych ward. Her name is Marianne Engel, she says, and the two of them have been in love for 700 years; that last of her hearts is meant for him. This incredibly bizarre and somewhat unsettling first meeting leads to a friendship and mutual dependence that is described a little bit reluctantly by the narrator, who pushes though with the story because he feels he must. As the narrator's body recovers, Marianne's mental illness worsens, and her fantastic gargoyle carving sessions start to drain away her life force. Through all this, however, she continues to tell him the story of their love, in addition to four other love stories from around the world and across the centuries.
Davidson's writing is fantastic. Even though the more difficult sections, his prose pulls you though and ensnares you. I found myself crying as the book ended. It's an amazing story, and an amazing novel, especially as it is his first published book. I hope Davidson retains the unique character of his writing and continues to inspire.