“The walls that might make others feel like they are suffocating have become my lungs.”
This book was a staff pick from my hometown library and was a short, quick read that I finished in just a few hours. You wouldn’t normally expect a book called The Enchanted to take place in prison, specifically on death row in a dirty, crumbling, incredibly corrupt men’s prison, but in this case, it works. Our narrator brings us into the narrow universe of these inmates, the prison staff, and an unnamed “lady” who is actually a mitigation specialist, working in her own way to save the inmates from their sentences. The world revealed to us, both inside and outside of the prison’s stone walls, is dark, starving, bloody, and so painful, but can also be a tiny bit magical, and is written and explored in a beautiful, intense way that even squeamish readers could likely appreciate. I have never read a story quite like this before and, while I wouldn’t exactly call the ending a happy one, it was a satisfying conclusion. I don’t want to give too much away about this particular book; it’s definitely better if you go in not knowing much, but given the short length and effortless language, it is not a grand time investment if you are at all interested.
I am giving this book 4 stars. It was a great novel especially considering that it is the author’s first; she previously only wrote non-fiction including work as a death penalty investigator so I guess it is not really a surprise that her fiction on the topic was so good. I do not want to reveal much on this blog about my particular views on the death penalty, but I believe that the insights that Denfeld has provided will allow readers on either side of the spectrum to appreciate the book – it’s not at all political. What kept it from a 5-star book for me was purely the fact that when you consider the narrator’s scope and position (again, I don’t want to say much), you realize that it is not entirely possible for the narration to be altogether truthful and it makes the structure of the book come apart a bit, but I just tried not to think about it and instead took it at face value and appreciated the prose. It felt like nearly every page had something beautifully quotable. I will definitely return to the staff picks binder at the library if the other selections continue to be as good as this book was.