By Rhonda Riley
Ecco, 432 pages, $15.99
Set during the 1940’s, The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope doesn’t really get started until the narrator, a teenage girl named Evelyn, discovers a disfigured man in the mud on the North Carolina farm she tends herself. She rescues him and he begins to heal at an accelerated pace, transforming over the course of days into a woman – identical to Evelyn in every way. Far from a science-fiction thriller, however, this occurrence thrusts the reader into a mythic love story as Evelyn grows impossibly closer to this shape-shifter who, in turn, grows into the beautiful and mysterious Adam Hope.
In her first novel, author Rhonda Riley starts with an outlandish premise but manages to tell a story which is very much rooted in real-life concerns. Throughout their lives together, Evelyn and Adam must cope with the hard truth that, no matter how much they love one another, they will always be separated by the mystery of Adam’s forgotten past. It is this struggle that dominates the regrettably much slower second half of the novel, reminding us that the mystery of love is not always a romantic one. All in all, The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope is a compelling narrative for fans of love stories and lovers of literary fiction alike, even if the strangeness of it demands readers to step outside their comfort zones.
Reviewed by Michael Weingartner