Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley


I’ve just finished reading The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope and by “just finished” I mean moments ago, because I had to sit right down right in the middle of the day and finish it, which is something I rarely do. Oh, I loved this book. But I find myself in the strange position of loving a book, wanting to share the book and yet, not wanting to say much about it at all. Because Rhonda Riley’s debut is like nothing you’ve read before and should be experienced without predeterminations. It’s a family saga, a bit of the supernatural, a touch of historical. Above all, it’s one of the most unique and compelling love stories I’ve read.

A short plot summary: When Evelyn Roe’s great-aunt dies, she is put in charge of the North Carolina farm she left behind. Evelyn is the eldest of the family and the only one who’s ever shown an interest in working the land. So at seventeen years of age, she finds herself living alone for the first time in her life. During a turbulent storm, she discovers what she believes to be an injured and disfigured solider, almost completely buried in patch of mud. She nurses the stranger back to life and thus begins the love story of her time on earth.

What can I say about this magical and inventive novel? The language is beautiful and nuanced and the story is told with a patient and measured pace. Amidst the day-to-day toil and beauty of family life, glimmers of deeper meaning break through. Riley’s examinations of this extraordinary relationship raise universal questions about the nature of all relationships; her ponderings about what it means to know a person, to love a person, will lead you to contemplate your own entanglements. The novel surprised me again and again and never took a false turn. It operated on so many levels, it made my brain hurt. Riley’s debut has been compared to The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle—both books I loved, and you could certainly do worse than to be their hybrid offshoot. I loved this book and although it’s only still April, I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t included in my top reads of the year come December (book was first published in 2013, however). Warning: Don’t read lots of reviews before you dig in! Best to discover the mystery on your own, I think. Amazon link here, but available everywhere.

1 comment:

"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka