Warning: the ‘things I really really liked’ section gets a tad spoilery, so read at your own risk ; )
Description from the back cover of the book:
“On a dark road in the middle of the night, a car plunges into a ravine. The driver survives the crash, but his injuries confine him to a hospital burn unit. There the mysterious Marianne Engel, a sculptress of grotesques, enters his life. She insists they were lover sin medieval Germany, when he was a mercenary and she was a scribe in the monastery of Engelthal. As she spins the story of their past lives together, the man’s disbelief falters; soon, even the impossible can no longer be dismissed.”
This book was addictive reading. I started it for a book club, and the description on the back cover drew me in, but I still didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. The Providence Journal apparently said this “reads like the mad spawn of Anne Rice and Stephen King” and I am inclined to agree. Considering I love both Rice and King, this is a good, good thing. The way the narrator talks to himself internally and his personification of the ‘snake’ in his spine after the accident makes me think of King, and his experiences with Marianne Engel and her eccentricity and lifestyle make me think of Rice. Like, really, that was spot on. 😀 DERP. Anyway.
This book is graphic, especially in describing the narrator’s burns and the treatment thereof, but I didn’t think it was nearly so graphic as some reviews complain, and I actually enjoyed these details, as they taught me a lot about the subject that I didn’t know. Then again, I’m not a squeamish person, so…eh!
Things I really really liked:
- The fact that the narrator is not named throughout the entirety of the book, even though much of his life story up until his accident is described, never once is his name mentioned. Also feel I should mention it’s so flawlessly and effectively done that I DIDN’T FREAKING NOTICE until I FINISHED THE FREAKING BOOK, and went back to look for his name. Ohhh boy.
- you never quite get a “case closed” conclusion as to whether Marianne Engel is or is not schizophrenic or “crazy”, but by the end you do get the sense she was probably not and the narrator made the right decision by BLANK BLANK BLANKETY BLANK (spoilers, lol)
- PAST LIVES. I love anything involving the concept of reincarnation. Yess.
- The fact that the narrator starts out as an atheist and ends, not in the same place, but not on the complete other end of the spectrum. Because of his love for Marianne, and because of her hyper-religiousness, I felt sure there’d be some type of “And then he FINALLY believed the same way she did!” type thing near the end. I’m so glad that shit didn’t happen. I mean, he comes to believe certain aspects of everything he’s told, but it’s natural and he retains his own outlook to a large degree while still making a personal transformation. It makes the story more powerful that they were able to be on the same spiritual level anyway through their love alone.
Hopefully that last one’s not tooooo much of a spoiler, I just wanted to make that known in case anyone started to read and stopped because they thought it might end up cliche. This story is really anything but cliche, can’t believe it’s a debut! Wow. Just, wow!
In conclusion, I would definitely recommend this book. The ending brought tears to my eyes. There were a few parts where there was more meat maybe than there needed to be, but it was such a surprisingly quick read because I got so entrenched in it every time I picked it up again. I found myself upset I couldn’t read more sooner due to other obligations, a sure sign of a good book!!