Death Row Daydreamer

“This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it but I do.” 

So begins Portland writer Rene Denfeld’s debut novel, The Enchanted, which Harper releases this month after winning a six-publisher auction. For the speaker, a death-row prisoner who’s the novel’s narrator, the enchantment is literal. Fantastical beings populate the crumbling, violent penitentiary where he is incarcerated: small men in the walls, creatures called “flibber-gibbets” in the crematorium, golden horses below the ground. But for “the lady,” a nameless private investigator who often visits the prison as part of her job probing death-penalty cases, the “magic” is something more ineffable: a glimmer of humanity and joy in the most unexpected of eyes, and the possibility of redemption in the unlikeliest of places. 

Writing about Rene Denfeld's The Enchanted in Portland Monthly’s spring arts guide. Denfeld herself…daylights? What’s the opposite of moonlights?—as a death-penalty investigator, which gives her a fascinating perspective on her death-row characters—and made her a fascinating subject for this profile.