“This is the truth: we all desire to conquer the comely one, because it affirms our own worth. Speaking for the men of the world, we want to own the beauty of the woman we’re fucking. We want to grasp that beauty, tightly in our greedy little fingers, to well and truly possess it, to make it ours. We want to do this as the woman shines her way through an orgasm. That’s perfection. And while I can’t speak for women, I imagine that they-whether they admit it or not-want the same thing: to possess the man, to own his rough handsomeness, if only for a few seconds.”
An atheist on a drug binge is speeding down the highway with a cracked mirror and a rail of coke on the dashboard and a bottle of Bourbon in between his legs. Live fast die young and slowwww, our protagonist quickly finds himself on a one-way ticket to hell as he crashes his car on the highway. Hell is a tad bit presumptuous, but considering he once killed a person I believe it’s safe to say that our man is going down in flames. Trapped in the wreck he is left burning like aerosol can’s at a trailer park bonfire. He is unconscious for seven weeks before waking up in a hospital with an odd feeling that a snake living within his body is talking to him, threatening him to behave and feed her or face the consequences. Before I forget, in this rendition death/devil is a woman and a snake with little charm but great influence. Silenced, the narrator realizes that he has been burned beyond recognition. The princely facial features and hard body that men and women alike deeply desired have been stolen from him by fourth degree burns to the majority of his body and muscle atrophy due to his induced coma. I will admit that I couldn’t read most of the gory details surrounding the burns, the procedures, the rehabilitation; my stomach could only take so much. I could seriously feel the gastric acids in my stomach moving feverishly like magma in a volcano getting ready to blow. This book forced me to experience my deepest fears and I dislike the author for making me do so. I may have avoided some of the passages but the effect was not lost. My mom is also a nurse and an avid book reader, and me telling her of my ails reading this book, she made it a point to tell me about even more disgusting medical practice that goes far beyond the use of maggots for necrosis or wound therapy. I have revealed my Achilles’ heel and I am scared for my future.
“The doctors removed my wasteland exterior by debriding me, scraping away the charred flesh. they brought in tanks of liquid nitrogen containing skin recently harvested from corpses. The sheets were thawed in pans of water, then neatly arranged on my back and stapled into place. Just like that, as if they were laying strips of sod over the problem areas behind their summer cabins, they wrapped me in the skin of the dead. My body was cleaned constantly but I rejected these sheets of necro-flesh anyway; I’ve never played well with others. So over and over again, I was sheeted with cadaver skin.”
The narrator is nameless, but I kept referring to him as One. I don’t know where I got that from or if he is ever referred to with that moniker, but that’s what I did so I am going to go with it to avoid confusion. Before the accident, One had lived one hell of a life (sorry had to do it once…sorry again). He was brought into this world in a tumultuous state, his mother died during delivery and his father split shortly after. He was raised, no sorry, he lived with his aunt and uncle who spent most of their time cooking up meth and neglecting the child in order to feed their addiction. One took a liking to reading books to escape his living hell, and he especially gravitated towards Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei. He consumed books like an amber does dry bush, he made libraries his primary place of residence, which served to be a good safe haven as his aunt and uncle’s home exploded due to their manufacturing of their primary source of income and entertainment. Needless to say life’s been tough for One and it doesn’t surprise me that he doubts God’s existence even if other’s are trying to convince him to keep the faith.
“God cannot be referred to as ‘good,’ ‘better,’ or ‘best’ because He is above all things. If a man says that God is wise, the man is lying because anything that is wise can become wiser. Anything that a man might say about God is incorrect… The best a man can do is to remain silent…The true master knows that if he had a God he could understand, he would never hold Him to be God.”
While recovering in the burn unit One meets a strange woman who appears to have strayed a little too far from the psychiatric ward and made her way into his room by way of window. Seven weeks without action may make a sex-crazed man like One delirious, but this one requires a more thoughtful approach. Not having the ability to talk for extended lengths of time is troubling in itself, but when you have a crazy person talking about the difference between gargoyles and grotesques, love and past lives, then you have to muster something up. When the proverbial shit is about to hit the fan Marianne reveals something that only One would know about; an event that happened during childhood, a revelation of sorts. Overtime they develop a relationship that centre’s on One talking about his life, all the while Marianne slowly reveals herself to One through the art of storytelling. Marianne’s stories about love were utilized to help chip away at the stone surrounding One’s heart. They varied in setting and specifics but were motivated by a common factor. They included one about an Italian iron worker, a Parisian woman waiting for her lost love, an English apprentice glass blower, and an Icelandic viking tale. These tales showcase the lengths people will go for love and will test One on how far he is willing to go too save himself.
Overall, I didn’t rally like this book. Not a fantasy fan, my lack of imagination makes books like these hard to relate too or even care about. Where I do appreciate the effort is in the ending. It was really effective in stirring my emotions which made the juice worth the squeeze. To be honest, I don’t know why I made a point to buy this book, perhaps it was the reviews or a drunken visitation to Goodreads and a misstep on my Next-To-Read list. Better a bad experience with a book than a fourth degree burn; I guess I’ll take it.
“There’s a gentle sigh which descends like billowing silk upon the soul that accepts its coming death. It’s a gentle pocket of air in the turbulence of everyday life… the silk settles around you as if it has been drifting towards the earth forever and has finally found it’s target. The flag of defeat has been mercifully dropped and, in this action, the loss is not so bad. Defeat itself is defeated by the embrace of defeat, and death is swallowed up in victory.”