In the waning months of World War II, young Evelyn Roe's life is transformed when she finds what she takes to be a badly burned soldier, all but completely buried in the heavy red-clay soil on her family's farm in North Carolina. When Evelyn rescues the stranger, it quickly becomes clear he is not a simple man.Read more...
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In the waning months of World War II, young Evelyn Roe's life is transformed when she finds what she takes to be a badly burned soldier, all but completely buried in the heavy red-clay soil on her family's farm in North Carolina. When Evelyn rescues the stranger, it quickly becomes clear he is not a simple man. As innocent as a newborn, he recovers at an unnatural speed, and then begins to change--first into Evelyn's mirror image, and then into her complement, a man she comes to know as Adam.
Evelyn and Adam fall in love, sharing a connection that reaches to the essence of Evelyn's being. But the small town where they live is not ready to accept the likes of Adam, and his unusual origin becomes the secret at the center of their seemingly normal marriage.
Adam proves gifted with horses, and together he and Evelyn establish a horse-training business. They raise five daughters, each of whom possesses something of Adam's supernatural gifts. Then a tragic accident strikes the family, and Adam, in his grief, reveals his extraordinary character to the local community. Evelyn and Adam must flee to Florida with their daughters to avoid ostracism and prying doctors. Adrift in their new surroundings, they soon realize that the difference between Adam and other men is greater than they ever imagined.
Intensely moving and unforgettable, The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope captures the beauty of the natural world, and explores the power of abiding love and otherness in all its guises. It illuminates the magic in ordinary life and makes us believe in the extraordinary.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-11-26
- Reviewer: Staff
Riley’s debut novel fuses a lyrical, tender love story with a sophisticated depiction of a supernatural sentient being. When 17-year-old Evelyn Roe discovers what appears to be a naked man buried in the mud of her aunt’s North Carolina farm, she’s bewildered by the figure’s grotesque features, indeterminate sex, and strange vocalizations. Within a few days the mysterious figure transforms into a tall, red-haired woman, nearly Evelyn’s identical twin. Evelyn names her Addie and passes her off as a cousin. Their friendship becomes sexual, but Evelyn wants a conventional life, so Addie seduces a passing stranger, assumes his likeness, and reappears to become Evelyn’s mate, Adam. They settle down, produce five daughters, and lead an idyllic life on the farm. However, when one daughter dies in a tragic accident, the manner of Adam’s grief alerts the small community that he is “not one of us.” In fear, the family flee to Florida where they resume domestic harmony. Passing years take a physical toll on Evelyn but not Adam, whose revelations lead to a poignant denouement. Riley sometimes overdoes the quotidian minutiae of farm life, but succeeds both in getting the reader to suspend disbelief and fashioning a compelling story. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media. (Apr.)
Leaving love's questions unanswered
In 1946 North Carolina, during a raging winter rainstorm, young Evelyn Roe discovers a man buried in the rich red clay of her farm. Impossibly, he’s alive. She frantically digs him from the muck and thinks he’s a burned, lost soldier. But as she warms him, feeds him, clothes him, his gnarled skin “heals” illogically fast, and he acts like he’s never eaten food, taken a bath or even heard language before. This can’t simply be a man with amnesia.
Riley contemplates the mysteries of those we love in a standout debut.
In fact, he’s not even a man.
Rhonda Riley’s marvelous debut, The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope, spans 50 years and chronicles the relationship between Evelyn and this guileless being, who goes through more than one strange metamorphosis. Eventually, they marry. They raise five daughters. And in all those years, despite their passion, their happy, ordinary life and their profound bond, Evelyn’s husband never ceases to be a mystery to her.
Richly drawn and tenderly delivered, what’s perhaps loveliest about Riley’s story is that Adam doesn’t know any more about his origins than Evelyn does. And he doesn’t care—he just is. Captivating in his joy and openness, he’s worldly and innocent, not to mention otherworldly, all at the same time. Meanwhile, Riley creates in Evelyn a wonderfully real narrator, a subtle masterpiece. With a loving but unobtrusive voice, Evelyn inspires instant, unnoticed loyalty in the reader, allowing for a complete suspension of disbelief that is a great feat given the book’s premise.
Enhanced by gorgeous depictions of the land Evelyn and Adam love, The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope evokes the wonder of being alive, of loving, of finding one’s home. By the end, it feels like you have truly listened in on a life—that these things have occurred somehow, in some realm. Combining terrific writing with mass appeal, this should be one of 2013’s most deserving hits.