* CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Enchanted is hailed as beautiful and wondrous, but I don’t feel this is necessarily true. The story is very dark, grim and hard-hitting, but rightfully so considering the subject matter. I often stopped to catch my breath because something disturbed me, but felt I understood the author’s intentions once I read her biography and interview.
Through the eyes of a reclusive and manic prisoner on death row, we get a hard look at the lives of his fellow inmates and the depravity taking place within the prison. The prisoner does not speak, often hides under his blankets and loses himself in books. He wholeheartedly believes little people run around the walls at night and golden horses lay underneath the prison waiting to be set free. Meanwhile, an unnamed woman has arrived at the prison to work with an inmate who wants to be executed. The Lady starts to investigate his case and find a way to get him off death row. Her investigation takes her to small towns and the depressed homes of the poor, but it is like a homecoming for her. We learn that the Lady is very familiar with the acts of violence and neglect towards women and children she hears about, having experienced it herself as a child. The prisoner is wary of the Lady and her mission. Most likely because he knows there is no forgiveness and no escape for broken souls.
In addition to her powerful storytelling, Rene Denfeld created a very captivating character with the Lady. She was calm, intelligent and tough as nails, fearless around murderers and rapists, and not afraid to step into dark corners. However, she wasn’t without her weaknesses, and did at times lose her nerve and get caught up in her emotions. I found the Lady fascinating and her character kept me interested in the book.
The Enchanted is full of very violent acts and some of these horrors happen to children. This may not be a book for those sensitive to this kind of subject matter. As Rene Denefeld has worked as a death penalty investigator, written a book about street families and adopted three foster children, the book’s themes of death and escape, the cycles of violence from being the abused to becoming the abuser, forgiveness and punishment, were inspired by her first-hand knowledge.
The prison narrator draws you into the bleak world of the prison, giving readers a very good idea of why the men behind bars should be there and unfortunately, how prison doesn’t necessarily mean the violence ends. The Enchanted was a tough read, but a powerful and compelling story, with lyrical writing and thought-provoking themes. There is a lot of Rene Denfeld in this story. I didn’t stop thinking about the book days after finishing.
P.S. I couldn’t stop thinking about Orange Is The New Black when reading this book. Very different prison experiences!