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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

ICYMI: A death-row inmate's desperate need for escapism leads to an elaborate world of magical thinking and fantastical scenes in this brutal, beautiful novel.


After a time, it seemed that the world inside the books became my world. So when I thought of my childhood, it was dandelion wine and ice cream on a summer porch, like Ray Bradbury, and catching catfish with Huck Finn. My own memories receded and the book memories became the real memories, far more than the outside, far more even than in here.

Yesterday I reviewed Rene Denfeld's newest novel, Sleeping Giants, and it reminded me that my read and review of the author's book The Enchanted in 2014 predated this blog.

The Enchanted brings us into the constricted world of a death-row inmate living in his "dungeon cell." He imagines a rich imaginary world full of fantastical visions, and these thoughts sustain him through his dark days.

The only outsiders he encounters are limited visitors admitted to the prison; in his case, a former priest and the Lady--an investigator searching for information in the convicts' past histories that might exonerate them. When the Lady digs into complicated pasts, she finds large swaths of gray within the assignments that have been made of black and white truth, finding a mix of honorable acts and devilish motivations and disturbing, shocking secrets.

The tone of The Enchanted is sometimes gorgeously, darkly ethereal and other times so grim and alluding to such graphic violence that I had to put down the book and take a break from reading.

The books brought brilliance to my life, and they brought an understanding: Life is a story. Everything that has happened and will happen to me is all part of the story of this enchanted place--all the dreams and visions and understandings that come to me in my dungeon cell. The books helped me see the truth is not in the touch of the stone but in what the stone tells you.

The moments of salvation (or at least dim hope) are that much more affecting because of the weight of the situation and the powerful way Denfeld presents the inmate's inner world and complicated past.

It's been a decade since I read it, and I still think about this one.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Rene Denfeld is also the author of The Child Finder,  Sleeping Giants, and The Butterfly Girl.

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