There’s something beautiful about the death row inmate who imagines golden horses running through the prison beneath him and magical birds looming just outside. The main character in Rene Denfeld’s The Enchanted is a murderer… but also a poet.
As he waits out his final days of life in a jail cell, the narrator has little else to do but observe and fantasize. He notices the corruption amongst the guards and how easily the prisoners can be bought or sold into submission. He also notices the priest and the lady investigator, who if they were smart, would never have stepped foot in that horrible place. She digs through the criminals’ pasts looking for anything that might exonerate them. The priest, fallen, thinks he can redeem himself by offering some amount of comfort to the damned. Sadly, however, there is no comfort to be found for the tortured souls on death row. Even when the lady finds all the evidence she needs to free an inmate, his mental state is such that he’d rather die instead.
This book is filled with stunning imagery and attention to detail, such as leaving the main characters nameless and making many references to the irrelevance and superficiality of names. And, as if the words themselves weren’t striking enough, Denfeld gave me another reason to love this novel by giving the mentally ill death row inmate a love for books. Learning to read and get lost in a story gave him the ability to see what an enchanted place prison could be and this magic is what made his final days acceptable.
It’s hard to describe such a beautifully written story in words that do it any justice, so I’m just going to force you all to read it, particularly if you like poetic prose, and definitely if you are the kind of person who finds beauty in pain.