Set in present day between the damp, stone walls of an old prison, we are told the sobering story of what life looks life for a small selection of death row inmates. Primarily we hear from the unnamed, mute man who observes the goings-on of the prison, along with some hallucinatory elements that let the reader know just how far gone this gentleman is mentally and emotionally – that he sees small men hammering in the walls, little sparkling motes swirling overhead while he reads, golden horses that stampede down the corridors… It is through his eyes that we learn about this enchanted, doomed place.
It’s also through him that we learn about The Lady, the one who works to trade executions for life sentences, who investigates horrid pasts and interviews inmates and subjects herself to details she shares with no one. The lady is dedicated and burdened.
There’s the fallen priest who administers last rites, even though he’s technically not allowed to. There’s the warden, whose wife is dying of cancer. And then there’s York, the lady’s current case, who has accepted his impending death and makes the lady’s investigation difficult.
That about covers the plot of The Enchanted, but I haven’t even told you what it’s really about. It might surprise you that we never really know what these men did. We know the results of what they did, and we see how they behave inside the prison toward one another, but details are only alluded to, not freely given, which I appreciate since our own imaginations can take us to those dark places just fine.
This is a difficult book to read on account of its content. Let this be a warning to you in case if you’re sensitive to real-life horror stories, the sort of things that make you believe without a doubt that evil exists in the world. But it’s also a book that tugs at your heart, drawing out the tiniest bit of empathy for these horrible creatures because it’s too easy to connect the dots from childhood to adulthood. It’s a book that leaves you wondering if there are any good solutions.
Finally, there is one twist. One solid twist and it sneaks in quietly at the end. Don’t miss it because it’s perfection. It comes at the right time when you cannot read about these people anymore. When you finish The Enchanted, you will be glad to leave the prison. You will feel sad and you will wonder about the differences between real life and fiction.
Interesting note: When the author isn’t writing books, she’s working as a death penalty investigator.