Much like Cry Father, The Enchanted isn’t an easy read, but it is a quick one. It concerns itself more with what happens when the life of crime is over, challenging, yet reinforcing the reader’s ideas about the prison system.
Told from two perspectives, one an unnamed death row inmate and the other a caseworker only known as The Lady, the story revolves around the impending execution of another inmate who challenges the lady with his own death wish.
The inmate narrator creates an entire world within his head and the walls of the prison that includes little watchers in the walls, night birds that dance in the dust of the yard and golden horses that run molten and violent beneath the floor of their confinement. Through the bars of this world he watches. He sees the other inmates, whose real names are never disclosed, approach their impending deaths in different ways. He sees the warden struggle to control his life within and without the walls. He sees The Lady become attached to the prison chaplain, whom he calls The Fallen Priest, often seeing and understanding more of their journey than they do.
Outside of the prison, as The Lady digs deeper and deeper into this particular case, she is confronted by the similarities to her own life. Circumstance is all that really separates her story from that of those she is hired to help.
Despite the darkness of the subject and the darkness within the characters, it manages to be magical and uplifting. The book is beautifully written, both gut-wrenching and…enchanting. It’s a little like an adult fairy tale. Not the Disney-fied version though. The original Grimm’s version, full of scary forests, betrayals and moved along by acts of violence. The ones that don’t always end happily.
As depressing as it sounds (and I thought so too before I read it) it actually is very powerful and hopeful.