Published by HarperCollins on March 1, 2014
Genres/Lists: #30Authors, Fiction
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The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld is about a magical place where golden horses run underground and men with hammers roam the insides of the walls. Sometimes there is a glimpse of sunlight, but more often than not it’s a place steeped in darkness. That’s because The Enchanted takes place on death row in an ancient prison with crumbling floors and long spiraled hallways. Although the prison is ancient, the story takes place in present day and tells a story of men waiting to die as a death row investigator and priest seek explanations and answers.
As a policy wonk who has spent some time researching the criminal justice system, I’ve always had pretty strong feelings about the death penalty’s implementation and the recent botches haven’t done much to change to my mind. That said, my understanding of how death row works and functions has been largely from an academic standpoint. Recently, however, I’ve begun to understand the human side of death row, for better or for worse. A good friend of mine, who works as a corrections officer and has worked with death row inmates, has been kind enough these last few months to answer all of my questions honestly, even when it’s hard for me to hear. Of course, we are approaching the subject from wildly different perspectives, so while we respect each other’s viewpoints, we rarely come to a full agreement.
It’s this backstory that contributed to why I loved The Enchanted so much. Written by a death row investigator who, surely, grapples with the concept of guilt as part of her career, the book addresses so many of the questions that I have about people on death row and in jail, in general. Of course, there are those who deserve to be there, no questions asked, but I’ve often wondered how a person becomes someone who gets sentenced to life or death. Was it their childhood? Were they abused? Did the system fail them? Did they get an education? Are they mentally ill? The Enchanted asks all of these questions, and it will make you question everything you thought you knew about the guilty.