Thursday, February 27, 2014

THE ENCHANTED LIFE OF ADAM HOPE is, in fact, enchanting


Ecco Press
$15.99 trade paper, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope is an unconventional and passionately romantic love story that is as breathtaking and wondrous as The Time Traveler's Wife and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

During WWII, teenager Evelyn Roe is sent to manage the family farm in rural North Carolina, where she finds what she takes to be a badly burned soldier on their property. She rescues him, and it quickly becomes clear he is not a man...and not one of us. The rescued body recovers at an unnatural speed, and just as fast, Evelyn and Adam fall deeply in love. In The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope, Rhonda Riley reveals the exhilarating, terrifying mystery inherent in all relationships: No matter how deeply we love someone, and no matter how much we will sacrifice for them, we can only know them so well...

My Review: The landscape of a life is common as pig-tracks. All the same milestones, either hit or missed, all the same parameters laid down by minor variations in genetic code, broadly indistinguishable. So why is it we're always so interested in others' lives? Why read novels about marriages that last or love affairs that sour or basements that exude more than the natural degree of fungal fetor?

Because solitude isn't loneliness, which isn't grief. All involve a person not having companions. All are intense emotional states. But they spring from causes not dissimilar with effects radically, wildly different from each other. Just like we, architects of or tenants in or travelers through out life's landscape, are intensely and inarguably different from each other.

Stories moves us through those landscapes at speed. The milestones are there, but rather than majestic sweeping mountain vistas seen while hiking, they're glimpsed from the highway while moving at speed. This is wonderful on many levels. We experience many different lives this way, fiction being a highway through the landscape of another's life; but it can lead to a jadedness and a sense of "been there, done that" as we whip past the wedding night, the first child, buying a this how many times now?

So with this in mind, hear what I tell you now: Adam Hope and Evelyn Roe aren't the usual suspects. Adam comes to Evelyn in a wonderful and deeply beautiful metaphorical blaze. I won't spoil it for you, but it left me both amused and so touched and moved that I was always ready to well up at the oddest moments in the tale, remembering that first contact and putting the moments of a life against it.

And, in the final analysis, isn't that the thing one most often does not get and resents the absence of in a story? An ordinary, relatable life rendered truly and beautifully Other by a simple reorientation of one detail?

So hear me clearly. Understand my urgency in telling you this. Life feels bad and unfocused and unlivable and unlovable sometimes. The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope will, if you let it, shift your perception that bubble off true that makes rain into rainbows.

My favorite quote from the novel has all the strengths and all the weaknesses of the book in one place:
“Countless times, I have imagined A. rising through the rivers of this land, to the surface of Florida to be found again, pulled into the air by new hands. The possibilities are endless, but most often I imagine him found by children. Above him, the sky shimmers and undulates blue through transparent springwater. Then four small brown hands break the surface and pull him into the air and into their excited and frightened vocabularies. The delicate bones of their arms and ribs absorb his voice, shattering their knowledge of what is possible.”


  1. Great review! I love this quote and find it highly representative of this author's skill with language.


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