The Enchanted; Rene Denfeld

The Enchanted book cover

The Enchanted; Rene Denfeld
| published March 9, 2015 |

By Kristy Webster
Thursday Review contributor

They can keep men in here, under lock and key, deep in the dungeon until the final moments of their lives, so that men like York and me will never taste the rain. But they cannot keep us from passing our condensation on to the sky. They cannot keep us from raining down in China.”--Rene Denfeld, The Enchanted.

I always find it the hardest to write book reviews for the books that move me the most, for the ones I fall deeply in love with. Such is the case with The Enchanted, the debut novel by author Rene Denfeld. Since finishing this book two days ago, I have found myself telling customers, friends and random strangers about the book. As I do, I feel my heartbeat quicken, and I feel a knot form in my throat, my voice gets higher as I try to hold back tears. Yes, this is how profound and powerful this book truly is.

This absolutely mesmerizing, terrifying and beautiful story is set in a prison, specifically amongst the death row population. A character referred to as only the lady has been hired to investigate the life of an inmate named York who’s due to be executed in the near future. The problem is, York doesn’t want to be saved, and he is ready to die. While investigating York’s nightmarish childhood, the lady comes face to face with common elements, a specific kind of damage she shares with York. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of this novel however, is the narrator himself, another death row inmate named Arden whose crime is so heinous it is never revealed. Through poetic observations, we learn about "the lady" and her secret past, the fallen priest with whom she shares a romantic tension, the tragic warden whose wife is dying of cancer, and the true source of the rampant corruption among prisoners and staff. We also see the dungeon through his eyes: an enchanted place where darkness is comforting, reading is a religious experience, and gold horses and men with hammers live in the walls.

In gorgeous, lyrical prose, Denfeld illuminates both the horrors and the beauty inside the most broken of spirits and reveals the humanity hidden even amongst the most unforgivable of predators. A deeply profound and deeply felt work of literary art, The Enchanted is destined to be a modern classic.

Related Thursday Review articles:

The Girl on the Train; Paula Hawkins; review by Kristy Webster; Thursday Review; March 7, 2015.

Battleborn; Claire Vaye Watkins; review by Kristy Webster; Thursday Review; February 26, 2015.