The Enchanted: A Novel

( 3 )

Overview

The lady, an investigator who excels at uncovering information to save her clients from execution . . .

The fallen priest, beaten down by his guilt over a terrible sin and its tragic consequences . . .

The warden, a kind man within a cruel system . . .

The mute prisoner, sensing what others cannot in what he calls "this enchanted place" . . .

The enchanted place is an ancient...

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The Enchanted: A Novel

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Overview

The lady, an investigator who excels at uncovering information to save her clients from execution . . .

The fallen priest, beaten down by his guilt over a terrible sin and its tragic consequences . . .

The warden, a kind man within a cruel system . . .

The mute prisoner, sensing what others cannot in what he calls "this enchanted place" . . .

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison. Two outsiders walk here: a woman known only as the lady, and a fallen priest. The lady comes to the prison when she has a job to do. She's skilled at finding the secrets that get men off death row. This gift threatens her career—and complicates her life—when she takes on the case of York, a killer whose date of execution looms. York is different from the lady's former clients: he wants to die. Going against the condemned man's wishes, the lady begins her work. What she uncovers about York's birth and upbringing rings chillingly familiar. In York's shocking and shameful childhood, the lady sees the shadows of her own.

The lady is watched by a death row inmate who finds escape in the books he reads from the prison library and by reimagining the world he inhabits—a world of majestic golden horses that stampede underground and of tiny men who hammer away inside stone walls. He is not named, nor do we know his crime. But he listens. He listens to York's story. He sees the lady fall in love with the priest and wonders how such warmth is possible in these crumbling corridors. As tensions in "this enchanted place" build, he sees the corruption and the danger. And he waits as the hour of his own destiny approaches.

The Enchanted is a magical novel about redemption, the poetry that can exist within the unfathomable, and the human capacity to transcend and survive even the most nightmarish reality. Beautiful and unexpected, this is a memorable story.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/25/2013
The fiction debut from nonfiction author and journalist Denfeld (Kill the Body, the Head Will Fall) is a striking one-of-a-kind prison novel. The narrator, who is on death row and remains nameless until the book’s end, explains that the prison, although a place where “the walls sigh with sadness,” is enchanted: golden horses “run deep under the earth,” miniature men with miniature hammers hide in the walls, and “flibber-gibbets dance while the oven slowly ticks.” The narrator’s magical perspective—which is paradoxically necessary, perhaps, to preserve what remains of his sanity—contrasts heartbreakingly with the parallel tale of an investigator, also unnamed, who is tasked with finding details about the past of another death-row inmate, known as York, that will result in his sentence being commuted, even though York has decided he wants to die. The novel follows the investigator’s exploration of the inmate’s grim life, even as the narrator brings us inside the dank stone walls of the “dungeon” where he lives. Through the novel’s rich, haunting prose, Denfeld, who herself has worked as an investigator in death penalty cases, shines a light on lives led with capital punishment on the schedule. This is a stunning first novel from an already accomplished writer that will leave the reader hoping for more fiction in the author’s future. Agent: Richard S. Pine, Inkwell Management. (Mar.)
Booklist
“Evocative. . . . Denfeld’s humanizing of the potential for horror that is within all of us and her insistence that the reader see the beauty in the darkest corners of life sizzles through her sharp prose, which both makes us flinch and invites us to imagine.”
Donald Ray Pollock
“Rene Denfeld is a genius. In The Enchanted, she has imagined one of the grimmest settings in the world--a dank and filthy death row in a corrupt prison--and given us one of the most beautiful, heart-rending, and riveting novels I have ever read.”
Erin Morgenstern
The Enchanted wrapped its beautiful and terrible fingers around me from the first page and refused to let go after the last. A wondrous book that finds transcendence in the most unlikely of places . . . So dark yet so exquisite.”
Katherine Dunn
The Enchanted is unlike anything I’ve ever read. . . . Contagious and seductive. The reader comes to see through Denfeld’s strange lens, and to savor the richness of the view long after the final page has turned.”
New York Journal of Books
The Enchanted explores the complexities of many crucial issues, including how we treat our children and the vulnerable and the consequences of our actions. It also makes us ask whether our personal behavior, social policies, and the justice system perpetuate more pain than otherwise for humanity.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“If you enjoy mystery and suspense as well as a bit of magic and horror you will find it all here. The story is enthralling and keeps you reading far into the night.”
The Oregonian
The Enchanted is instead a testament to the power of words, of language and symbols to reshape one’s reality, and it is an extraordinarily empathetic look at the sorrows and joys of even the worst aspects of human life.”
Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-08
The lost souls are on both sides of the bars in this death-row melodrama, the first novel from the author of works on societal issues (All God's Children, 2007, etc.). The prison is old. The row itself is below ground. The nameless narrator calls the place enchanted, for the inmates are under the spell of death. Executions in the lethal injection chamber are frequent. Mute since the age of 6, this narrator left a mental hospital at 18 and did something "too terrible to name" to a little boy. He found sanctuary in the prison library until, intolerably provoked, he beat another inmate to death and was transferred to solitary. There are too many gaps in the mute's story to make him compelling. We know much more about his neighbor York, convicted of crimes against girls, again unspecified. His beautiful, mentally challenged mother had slept with half their small town; her visitors took advantage of York, too. He was born with syphilis. This detail is uncovered by the lady, as the death penalty investigator is known. (The author has worked in this field.) Acting for the defense to commute York's sentence to life, she is up against a tight deadline and against York himself, who wants to die. Her sleuthing could have made a powerful novella, but there are too many distractions. We delve into the lady's background, a mirror image of York's. She's painfully alone but looking for a mate, and she finds one in another death-row visitor, the fallen priest, a loner burdened by guilt. But Denfeld's not done; she explores the prison culture, in which corruption is rampant and rape condoned. She is on much surer ground here than with her magic realist touches, such as the golden horses that live beneath the row and start running as an execution nears. Their role? "[B]eauty in the pain," says the priest. An over-the-top work with a number of preordained victims but no individuals.
Library Journal
★ 12/01/2013
Filled with themes of pain and suffering and still a pleasure to read, this impressive debut from author/journalist Denfeld (All God's Children) is set in a decaying, dark, corrupt prison, but as the opening line reveals, it "is an enchanted place." The Lady, a death-row investigator (similar to mitigation specialist Denfeld) uses her unique perspective as a victim of terrible childhood abuse and conditions to research the lives of inmates. Working with her are a fallen priest, who is hiding secrets and hurt of his own, and the warden, whose wife is dying of cancer. Much of the story is told from the fantastical perspective of a reclusive prisoner on death row, preferring to remain unseen for his own protection and those around him. In many ways, this is a tale about being seen, understood, possibly forgiven, and maybe even loved. VERDICT While dark enough to appeal to fans of fantasy and horror (think Stephen King's The Green Mile), this is also a work of love and redemption. Read this magical book, and prepare to be spellbound. [See Prepub Alert, 9/9/13.]—Shaunna E. Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062285508
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 104,502
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Rene Denfeld is an author, journalist, and a death penalty investigator. She has written for the New York Times Magazine, the Oregonian, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, and is the author of four books, including the international bestseller The New Victorians: A Young Woman's Challenge to the Old Feminist Order.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2014

    Just from reading the sample, I'm hooked on this book.

    Denfield is creating an imaginative world, full of description, for a man in prison who sees things like no one else does. I hav bot read this book, but the sample urges me to read more. Already, I feel the main character, his sadness, his love for books, his imagination and dreams. Now, I to want read the rest of the book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2014

    Disturbingly entertaining

    Interesting read. Gritty and disturbing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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