The Red Garden
The Red Garden introduces us to the luminous and haunting world of Blackwell, Massachusetts, capturing the unexpected turns in its history and in our own lives.
In exquisite prose, Hoffman offers a transforming glimpse of small-town America, presenting us with some three hundred years of passion, dark secrets, loyalty, and redemption in a web of tales where characters' lives are intertwined by fate and by their own actions.
From the town's founder, a brave young woman from England who has no fear of blizzards or bears, to the young man who runs away to New York City with only his dog for company, the characters inThe Red Garden are extraordinary and vivid: a young wounded Civil War soldier who is saved by a passionate neighbor, a woman who meets a fiercely human historical character, a poet who falls in love with a blind man, a mysterious traveler who comes to town in the year when summer never arrives.
At the center of everyone's life is a mysterious garden where only red plants can grow, and where the truth can be found by those who dare to look.
Beautifully crafted, shimmering with magic, The Red Garden is as unforgettable as it is moving.
From the Hardcover edition.
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The Red GardenUser Review - Joyce Kessell - Book Verdict
Set in a mythical town tucked deep in the Berkshire Mountains, Hoffman's (www.alicehoffman.com) collection of interrelated stories imagines the 300-year history of rural Blackwell, MA, reflecting on ... Read full review
In just under 300 pages, Alice Hoffman takes the reader on a journey through the history of a small town in Massachusetts, Bearsville, aka Blackwood, aka Blackwell, which was settled quite by accident. Four families, traveling with William Grady and his wife, Hillie, become lost in a snowstorm and flounder. Hillie, the stronger and more industrious of the two is ultimately the one responsible for successfully settling there and for their survival. This small town of four families, Mott, Partridge, Starr, and Grady, soon grows to ten, changes its name, prospers and grows still further. Some other names that appear are Jacob, Kelly, Flynn, and Chapman. New families arrive, marriages, births, and deaths ensue. We follow their thread from the 1700’s to the Civil War to the Depression and another war, right up until and into the 21st century.
Because the story felt more like a collection of short stories, it wasn’t always cohesive. While interesting, it was often confusing, especially with an audio book since the listener can’t easily review what has just been read. Sometimes the characters jumbled together and names got mislaid in my memory. So many characters were highlighted in the 14 chapters, it was sometimes hard to find the thread connecting them, but there definitely was a thread. A name would occur early on and then disappear only to suddenly recur in a later chapter. Often, it was hard to remember the trail and hold onto the continuity. It was more like there was suddenly an aha moment when everything would click and come together.
Many themes returned throughout the stories: the color red as in blood, apples, red vegetables, red fruit, red soil, red flowers; trees, as in the tree of life; babies born out of wedlock. There were bones, runaways, poets, bears, dogs and other creatures, blindness, magic and the supernatural, gardens with secrets. It was almost as if these qualities were part of some cosmic DNA. There were chance meetings that turned into kismet for some of the characters and there were many moments of tragedy and sadness followed by a story of survival, all of which together were able to knit all of the families that originally settled into a cohesive whole.
There were many beautifully told stories of love and devotion, loss and sadness. The times were hard and courage and perseverance were necessary qualities for survival and success. Each of the families moved through the generations in an almost karma-like fashion, with the character’s descendants morphing and changing, growing into themselves from generation to generation.
With the passage of time, the garden goes through various stages of being planted and productive or lying fallow, in much the same way as the character’s lives progress, depending on the family living near or in the original Brady house at a particular time, but the garden is definitely something that links them all.
After more than two centuries, the descendants of a Mott and a Grady, come full circle and return to their small town beginnings, once again making the garden a sacred place and making the book feel as if it is almost beginning again.
Hoffman writes with a spare prose that is more expressive than books with more than twice the number of pages.
THE BEARS HOUSE
EIGHT NIGHTS OF LOVE 27
THE YEAR THERE WAS NO SUMMER
OWL AND MOUSE
THE RIVER AT HOME
THE MONSTER OF BLACKWELL