The Enchanted, Rene Denfeld

Rene Denfeld is, among other things, a journalist who focuses on death row and the death penalty. Her message in this book is obvious: the penal system is horrific, and desperately needs reform. It's an important message, and I think choosing fiction as her medium was a smart way to get it noticed, but I feel rather bashed over the head with it. The writing itself is good, particularly in the parts in which we follow "the lady," a woman whose job is to find enough evidence to get a reprieve of the death sentence for her clients. But the prison parts are just awful. I guess that's the point, and perhaps it's willfully naive of me to rebel against reading such terrible things as repeated prison rape, guard corruption, and almost laughably substandard medical care. There are few people I could suggest this book to, few customers I know who would be able to handle the horror contained in this little novel. And it's a shame, because Denfeld is trying to make a very important case, and she clearly has the skill to do it. But reading is my escape, just as it is for our death-sentenced narrator, Arden; I get enough horror in the daily news, I don't want it from my fiction as well.


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