Rene Denfeld is an author, journalist and licensed investigator specialising in death penalty work. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Her first novel is The Enchanted , set largely in a maximum security prison in Oregon. Below ground level is the wing where death row prisoners are kept, often for years at a time, as they await the exhaustion of the appeals procedure. Its narrator is one of these prisoners: he has not spoken aloud for many years.

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Laurie Grassi Updated March 5, Other players include a fallen priest who counsels inmates and longs for a closer relationship with the lady, and the narrator, a fellow inmate who has committed an act so heinous he copes by turning everything he sees into a world of dreams and imagination. Why we love it: The lyrical and redemptive debut novel by Rene Denfeld merges the cold brutality of life behind bars with the magic of fantasy.

Her characters are heartbreakingly human and remind us that even in the most dire circumstances, beauty and love exist and can be transcendent. The inspiration: Denfeld has worked as a death penalty investigator for seven years and often visits inmates on death row. Even if we struggle with terrible traumas or have done unforgivable things, we still want to be seen, heard and loved.

The sadness for me is that often this need is never met. The beauty is that it can be. I locate long-ago family members, witnesses and friends. I unearth old records and documents. I help people share their sad and painful memories. Often this evidence is presented in court, to help the judge and jury better understand my client. Personal history: Denfeld is the mother of three children, all of whom she adopted from state foster care.

Books Our next Book Club pick is a story about a man on death row A nameless woman tries to save a condemned man in spite of his horrific crime. What would it be like to be incarcerated and facing certain death? The power of imagination. How relying on others gives life meaning. The idea that even the worst of us is worth saving. About the author Lives: Portland, Ore.


Top Shelf: THE ENCHANTED by Rene Denfeld

I consider books my religion. This is a piece of work so bold, beautiful and dark that it will wrap its maw right around your heart. I have never come across a book quite like this one before. The Enchanted is a story as dark and ridden with despair as it is beautiful and hopeful. Told by an anonymous inmate on death row, it allows us to peek through a keyhole into the human soul. The story revolves around York, a death row inmate whose execution day is rapidly approaching. York refuses his right to a public defender, claiming he is ready for death.


The Enchanted

An over-the-top work with a number of preordained victims but no individuals. The prison is old. The row itself is below ground. The nameless narrator calls the place enchanted, for the inmates are under the spell of death.


Rene Denfeld

It is a story about the ugliness of prison life on Death Row, of living life in an evil underground dungeon. It is about black-shirted execution squads and corrupt guards who order young men in general population to the rape shed for personal gain, then call them used, broken and throwaways to break their spirit of any hope. It is about su. It is about surviving, but wishing death would come bringing a new beginning. It is also a story of a lonely man who will not speak bc his past is so vile, but reads a favorite book to let the words carry him away to another place, another world not so ugly.

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