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THE ENCHANTED LIFE OF ADAM HOPE by Rhonda Riley

THE ENCHANTED LIFE OF ADAM HOPE

By Rhonda Riley

Pub Date: April 23rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-209944-0
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

A husband literally made in the image of others teaches Evelyn Roe about enduring love and the equally enduring human distrust of difference in Riley’s debut.

On a rainy morning in early 1947, 19-year-old Evelyn stumbles across a mud-encrusted body on her family’s farm. She assumes this oddly misshapen, seemingly scorched being is a wounded veteran—until “he” begins morphing into a female who looks spookily like Evelyn. She’s not afraid of this gentle alien—indeed, the two begin a passionate sexual relationship rooted in the visitor’s extraordinarily empathetic touch and voice—but terrified of what would happen if its true nature were discovered in close-minded North Carolina. Evelyn introduces everyone to a long-lost cousin named Addie, and life continues tranquilly until Addie senses Evelyn’s longing for a child. She disappears one night with a roving drunk and returns two weeks later looking just like the man. Now Evelyn can marry her soul mate, renamed Adam Hope, and enjoy blissful domesticity on the farm. They have a near-escape from detection when twins Jennie and Lillian are delivered in the hospital and doctors, baffled by their amorphous appearance, want to run tests, but Evelyn and Adam whisk them home to speedily acquire their mother’s entirely human appearance, just as their home-born sisters did. The danger is greater when Adam lands in the hospital, and the family decides to move to Florida. The narrative speeds up at this point as the girls enter adolescence and Evelyn enters middle age, but Adam’s ever-young appearance again threatens them with discovery. His exit is as mysterious as his entrance, and this is the book's underlying problem. If Addie/Adam had any notion where s/he came from, or if Evelyn’s love was ever shaken by any real conflicts, this sweet but rather anodyne tale would gain some needed bite. As is, despite a few asides on racism, it’s basically a romance with E.T. trimmings.

Well-written and stocked with many strong characterizations, but fuzzy in plotting and theme.