Rene Denfeld

Critically Acclaimed Novelist
Library Journal Best Book Pick
Travels from: Portland, OR

“A glittering gem of a story—part mystery, part fairy tale, and all white-knuckled, edge-of-your-seat thriller…” – Library Journal, Starred Review

Rene is the author of the acclaimed novels The Child Finder, The Enchanted, and The Butterfly Girl. Her literary thrillers explore themes of survival, resiliency and redemption, and have earned starred Library Journal reviews, glowing NYTBR reviews, and Indie Next picks. Margaret Atwood has proclaimed her work “astonishing” and The Butterfly Girl a “heartbreaking, finger-gnawing, yet ultimately hopeful novel.”

Rene was the Chief Investigator at a public defender’s office and has worked hundreds of cases, including death row exonerations and helping rape trafficking victims. In addition to her advocacy work, Rene has been a foster adoptive parent for over twenty-five years. She was awarded the Break The Silence Award in Washington, DC for her social justice work. In 2017 the New York Times named a 2017 named her a hero of the year.

The child of a difficult history herself, Rene is an accomplished speaker who loves connecting with others. Rene lives in Portland, Oregon, where she is the happy mom of three kids adopted from foster care as well as other foster kids.

Prepare an Invitation for:

The Butterfly GIrl

Harper |
Novel

“A heartbreaking, finger-gnawing, and yet ultimately hopeful novel by the amazing Rene Denfeld.” —Margaret Atwood, via Twitter

After captivating readers in The Child Finder, Naomi—the investigator with an uncanny ability for finding missing children—returns, trading snow-covered woods for dark, gritty streets on the search for her missing sister in a city where young, homeless girls have been going missing and turning up dead.

From the highly praised author of The Child Finder and The Enchanted comes The Butterfly Girl, a riveting novel that ripples with truth, exploring the depths of love and sacrifice in the face of a past that cannot be left dead and buried. A year ago, Naomi, the investigator with an uncanny ability for finding missing children, made a promise that she would not take another case until she finds the younger sister who has been missing for years. Naomi has no picture, not even a name. All she has is a vague memory of a strawberry field at night, black dirt under her bare feet as she ran for her life.

The search takes her to Portland, Oregon, where scores of homeless children wander the streets like ghosts, searching for money, food, and companionship. The sharp-eyed investigator soon discovers that young girls have been going missing for months, many later found in the dirty waters of the river. Though she does not want to get involved, Naomi is unable to resist the pull of children in need—and the fear she sees in the eyes of a twelve-year old girl named Celia. Running from an abusive stepfather and an addict mother, Celia has nothing but hope in the butterflies—her guides and guardians on the dangerous streets. She sees them all around her, tiny iridescent wisps of hope that soften the edges of this hard world and illuminate a cherished memory from her childhood—the Butterfly Museum, a place where everything is safe and nothing can hurt her.

As danger creeps closer, Naomi and Celia find echoes of themselves in one another, forcing them each to consider the question: Can you still be lost even when you’ve been found? But will they find the answer too late?

The Child Finder

Harper |
Novel

“Aptly unclassifiable, Denfeld’s compulsively readable second novel calls on elements of horror, mystery, fairy tales, and even romance to explore legacies of violence and the resilience of the most vulnerable among us.” — Booklist

A haunting, richly atmospheric, and deeply suspenseful novel from the acclaimed author of The Enchanted about an investigator who must use her unique insights to find a missing little girl.

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Told in the alternating voices of Naomi and a deeply imaginative child, The Child Finder is a breathtaking, exquisitely rendered literary page-turner about redemption, the line between reality and memories and dreams, and the human capacity to survive.

The Enchanted

Harper Perrennial |
Novel

The Enchanted wrapped its beautiful and terrible fingers around me from the first page and refused to let go after the last. A wondrous book that finds transcendence in the most unlikely of places. . . . So dark yet so exquisite.” — Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

An astonishing and redemptive novel for readers of Alice Sebold and Toni Morrison, told from the point of view of a convict whose magical interpretations of prison life allow him to find absolute joy while isolated from the rest of humanity and a female investigator who experiences her own personal salvation in her work as a death penalty investigator.

This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it but I do.

The enchanted place is a high security prison and is relayed through the eyes of an inmate on death row who escapes his surroundings by immersing himself in books, and by re-imagining the world that surrounds him. Instead of focusing on the cloudy medical vines that snake across the floor, empty and waiting for the warden’s finger to press the red buttons, our narrator sees golden horses as they run deep under the earth, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs.

A woman and fallen priest haunt the prison halls–an unnamed female investigator only known as the Lady who is known for discovering information relating to soon-to-be executed inmates’ backgrounds that can be used to overturn their sentences. She is put on the case of a man named York and as she digs into his past, the experience brings up ghosts of her own and threatens to destroy everything that she has come to know about the enchanted place.

The Enchanted is a magical novel about redemption, the humanity that can lie within what is monstrous, and the human capacity to transcend and survive.

How Public Libraries Saved My Life

Healing from Trauma

Surviving Abuse

Mass Incarceration, Public Defense and Marginalized Populations

What Is Justice?

How We Can Use Trauma to Heal Others and Ourselves

Rene’s Upcoming Events

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Winner of a prestigious French Prix award
Long list for the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
IMPAC list International Dublin Literary Award
A New York Times Hero of the Year for her justice work
Recipient of the National Break The Silence Award
Finalist for the 2014 Flaherty First Novel Prize
Top #5 Books of the Year, Powell’s Books
Indie Next Picks
ALA Excellence in Fiction Award listing
Foyles Best of 2014
Harper Collins Canada #1 Fan Choice
Waterstones Book Club Pick

Media Kit

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