Author: Rene Denfeld
Date of Publication: March 4, 2014
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing this review copy! "The Enchanted" will be on tour for the next couple of weeks; check it out here.
Two Sentence Summary: In a crumbling, low-tech maximum security prison, an anonymous Death Row inmate narrates a bleak tale of suffering and corruption,(both within "the system" and in the characters' past) with surreal tinges of beauty and hope. A woman simply referred to as "The Lady," graces Death Row with her insight and empathy, working to investigate the lives of the imprisoned in the hope of saving their lives and illuminating the paths that have led to tragedy.
Things I Think: The author of this book has a fascinating background: in addition to being a reputed novelist and journalist, she has also worked as a death penalty investigator. This lends her subject matter not only a huge amount of clout, but an impressively realistic vision that books on a similar topic lack.
Most impressive, though, is the gracefulness with which the plot reveals itself. Amidst descriptions of food so foul it made my stomach turn, amidst senseless brutality, torture and psychological abuse, Denfield has planted tiny seeds of strange beauty. They primarily manifest in the mind of the narrator, a man whose crimes are so horrific that he won't mention them, for fear of promulgating the idea. In fact, he has lost the ability to speak at all. In his solitude, though, he has constructed intricate explanations for the goings-on of the prison system (wild horses living beneath their "dungeon," for example).
I was most in love with Denfeld's avoidance of an imposed morality. Even those on Death Row are deserving of The Lady's (and our) consideration, deserving of a second look to identify their humanity, and their trajectory to this terrifying place. There is no enforced alignment of actions with "goodness" or "badness" - things simply are, things simply have occurred, and forward motion (emotionally, mentally, physically if possible) becomes the most powerful response.