Riley’s debut novel fuses a lyrical, tender love story with a sophisticated depiction of a supernatural sentient being. When 17-year-old Evelyn Roe discovers what appears to be a naked man buried in the mud of her aunt’s North Carolina farm, she’s bewildered by the figure’s grotesque features, indeterminate sex, and strange vocalizations. Within a few days the mysterious figure transforms into a tall, red-haired woman, nearly Evelyn’s identical twin. Evelyn names her Addie and passes her off as a cousin. Their friendship becomes sexual, but Evelyn wants a conventional life, so Addie seduces a passing stranger, assumes his likeness, and reappears to become Evelyn’s mate, Adam. They settle down, produce five daughters, and lead an idyllic life on the farm. However, when one daughter dies in a tragic accident, the manner of Adam’s grief alerts the small community that he is “not one of us.” In fear, the family flee to Florida where they resume domestic harmony. Passing years take a physical toll on Evelyn but not Adam, whose revelations lead to a poignant denouement. Riley sometimes overdoes the quotidian minutiae of farm life, but succeeds both in getting the reader to suspend disbelief and fashioning a compelling story. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media. (Apr.)
“Folkloric elements blend with pure romance in Rhonda Riley’s startling The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope, a debut novel that raises questions about how well we ever know our loved onesand whether it even matters….Riley’s unusual meditation on the private worlds we build to shelter our partners and our children is written with earthiness and deep appreciation for the power of the land…. Both dreamily erotic and filled with the relatable minutiae of day-to-day life
“The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope is strange and powerful, a hybrid work that’s part Alice Munro, part Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and entirely, marvelously, itself. In her debut novel, Rhonda Riley has written the most resonant and touching love story I’ve read in a very long time.”
“Enhanced by gorgeous depictions, THE ENCHANTED LIFE OF ADAM HOPE evokes the wonder of being alive, of loving, of finding one’s home. By the end, it feels like you have truly listened in on a life. This should be one of 2013’s most deserving hits.”
“The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope creates a world in which the reader will encounter the full spectrum of emotions… This stunningly beautiful and unforgettable novel, a testament to the possibilities and triumph of love, find a permanent home in the reader’s heart.”
“An incredible, otherworldly love story...[that] reads with the urgency of a lifelong secret finally confessed.”
Narrator Evelyn Roe looks back on her decades-long life with beloved husband Adam, their houseful of beautiful daughters, and the stunning secret of Adam's genesis that defined their marriage and nearly derailed it. In 1944, 17-year-old Evelyn inherited her aunt's North Carolina farm and thrived in the solitude and hard work. Three years later, in the midst of a driving rainstorm, Evelyn finds a nearly dead something half-buried in the mud. She's shocked to find that the being is not human but rather a shapeless life form that quickly morphs into an Evelyn lookalike whom Evelyn names Addie. The women hide their developing sensual, loving relationship from family and neighbors until Evelyn's biological clock cannot be ignored. A timely visit from a grifter provides Addie the cover she needs to leave for a while, returning as a newly morphed grifter-clone whom Evelyn renames Adam. Falling in love anew, they raise a family until tragedy almost destroys all that is precious. VERDICT First-time novelist Riley's exquisite language draws the reader into this improbable, beautifully rendered, somewhat biblical love story with a wildly imaginative premise that is irresistible, tender, and provocative.—Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI
A husband literally made in the image of others teaches Evelyn Roe about enduring love and the equally enduring human distrust of difference in Riley's debut. On a rainy morning in early 1947, 19-year-old Evelyn stumbles across a mud-encrusted body on her family's farm. She assumes this oddly misshapen, seemingly scorched being is a wounded veteran--until "he" begins morphing into a female who looks spookily like Evelyn. She's not afraid of this gentle alien--indeed, the two begin a passionate sexual relationship rooted in the visitor's extraordinarily empathetic touch and voice--but terrified of what would happen if its true nature were discovered in close-minded North Carolina. Evelyn introduces everyone to a long-lost cousin named Addie, and life continues tranquilly until Addie senses Evelyn's longing for a child. She disappears one night with a roving drunk and returns two weeks later looking just like the man. Now Evelyn can marry her soul mate, renamed Adam Hope, and enjoy blissful domesticity on the farm. They have a near-escape from detection when twins Jennie and Lillian are delivered in the hospital and doctors, baffled by their amorphous appearance, want to run tests, but Evelyn and Adam whisk them home to speedily acquire their mother's entirely human appearance, just as their home-born sisters did. The danger is greater when Adam lands in the hospital, and the family decides to move to Florida. The narrative speeds up at this point as the girls enter adolescence and Evelyn enters middle age, but Adam's ever-young appearance again threatens them with discovery. His exit is as mysterious as his entrance, and this is the book's underlying problem. If Addie/Adam had any notion where s/he came from, or if Evelyn's love was ever shaken by any real conflicts, this sweet but rather anodyne tale would gain some needed bite. As is, despite a few asides on racism, it's basically a romance with E.T. trimmings. Well-written and stocked with many strong characterizations, but fuzzy in plotting and theme.