The Red Garden

( 218 )

Overview

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 ...

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The Red Garden

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Overview

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 in The 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Anne Trubek
…Hoffman has developed her own brand of magical realism. Lulling and thought-provoking, she conjures soothing places where readers, like the children to whom we tell fairy tales, can learn with pleasure…"A story can still entrance people even while the world is falling apart," Hoffman writes in "The Fisherman's Wife," a story about gossip during the Depression. These tall tales, with their tight, soft focus on America, cast their own spell.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Hoffman brings us 200 years in the history of Blackwell, a small town in rural Massachusetts, in her insightful latest. The story opens with the arrival of the first settlers, among them a pragmatic English woman, Hallie, and her profligate, braggart husband, William. Hallie makes an immediate and intense connection to the wilderness, and the tragic severing of that connection results in the creation of the red garden, a small, sorrowful plot of land that takes on an air of the sacred. The novel moves forward in linked stories, each building on (but not following from) the previous and focusing on a wide range of characters, including placid bears, a band of nomadic horse traders, a woman who finds a new beginning in Blackwell, and the ghost of a young girl drowned in the river who stays in the town's consciousness long after her name has been forgotten. The result is a certain ethereal detachment as Hoffman's deft magical realism ties one woman's story to the next even when they themselves are not aware of the connection. The prose is beautiful, the characters drawn sparsely but with great compassion. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
“An absorbing portrait of a town, told through its unforgettable people….masterful.”--People, four stars

“[A] dreamy, fabulist series of connected stories . . . These . . . tales, with their tight, soft focus on America, cast their own spell.”--The Washington Post

"Hoffman’s writing is so beautiful it’s almost painful to read….Hoffman makes the magic she writes about feel so real, as though I could at any moment, find myself in the town of Blackwell and the mysterious garden that bears only red fruit."--Eleanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters

“The Red Garden is recommended to readers who enjoy, in addition to beautiful prose, magical realism and different narrators over time. . . . Alice Hoffman is an author not to be missed.”--Historical Novels Review

"Alice Hoffman, herself a shining star among American novelists, possesses the stunning ability to express the numinous in the most prosaic language. Somehow, without elaborate wordplay, she manages to communicate a yearning interpretation of the life we all live, opening the reader’s eyes to the otherworldly riddles that make things appear just a trifle askew—when we notice them, that is. And Alice Hoffman certainly notices them. One secret of her ongoing appeal, year after year, book after book, is her keen perception. And in The Red Garden, Hoffman delivers a body of stories that explores the depths of reality as well as its enduring quirkiness."--Book Page

"In gloriously sensuous, suspenseful, mystical, tragic, and redemptive episodes, Hoffman subtly alters her language, from an almost biblical voice to increasingly nuanced and intricate prose reflecting the burgeoning social and psychological complexities her passionate and searching characters face in an ever-changing world."—Booklist, starred review

"Hoffman has done it again, crafting a poignant, compelling collection of fairy tales suffused with pathos and brightened by flashes of magic. Her fans, as well as those of magical realism in general, will be enchanted."—Library Journal, starred review

"Fans of Hoffman’s brand of mystical whimsy will find this paean to New England one of her most satisfying."—Kirkus Review

"The novel moves forward in linked stories, each building on (but not following from) the previous and focusing on a wide range of chracters....The result is a certain ethereal detachment as Hoffman’s deft magical realism ties one woman’s story to the next even when they themselves are not aware of the connection. The prose is beautiful, the characters drawn sparsely but with great compassion."—Publishers Weekly



From the Hardcover edition.

Library Journal
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 the growth of western Massachusetts and the legacy of a resident family. Originally called Bearsville by its settlers, who ended up on the wrong side of a mountain in the snow, Blackwell carries the spirit and mystery of one of its founders, Hallie Brady. Each chapter moves the story through another generation, with the narrative literally grounded by the garden, where only red plants can grow. Hoffman's usual charm and skill at character development are in full force as she pulls off the historical progression. Some chapters are more touching than others, but the plot's logic works well. Actress Nancy Travis is an able reader, playing well with the magic of the prose. Recommended. [The Crown hc received a starred review, LJ 10/1/10; the Broadway pb will publish in August 2011.—Ed.]—Joyce Kessell, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo
Kirkus Reviews

In 14 freestanding but consecutive stories, Hoffman (The Story Sisters, 2009, etc.) traces the life of the town of Blackwell, Mass., from its founding in 1750 up to the present as the founders' descendents connect to the land and each other.

Hallie Brady, who saves her fellow settlers from starvation by catching eels in the river, has a special, perhaps mystical affinity for the local bears. After her daughter's husband Harry Partridge mistakenly kills her most beloved bear in her back garden, she disappears and Harry buries the bear. In 1792, Johnny (Appleseed) Chapman, the first of many outsiders who drift through, plants a Tree of Life in the center of town. In 1816, another outsider helps find the drowned body of six-year-old Amy Starr before eloping with her older sister. Amy's "ghost" will appear to future generations. In the Civil War, an injured Partridge finds a reason to live when he falls in love with the war widow of Amy's nephew. In 1903, Isaac Partridge marries a woman who has reinvented herself, not unlike Hallie Brady. In 1935, a writer from Brooklyn comes to town as part of the WPA and falls in love with a fisherman's wife who may or may not be an enchanted eel. In 1945, the townspeople believe that the tomatoes that Hannah Partridge, Isaac's daughter, plants in her garden have the power to make wishes come true; in fact Hannah's own wish to raise a child without marriage is realized when her sister comes back from World War II with a baby girl named Kate. In 1956, Kate falls in love with a man whose loneliness has turned him into a kind of bear. Discovering bones in her garden in 1986, Kate's daughter Louise thinks they belong to a dinosaur until the man who loves her proves they came from a bear. Together the lovers re-bury the bones.

Fans of Hoffman's brand of mystical whimsy will find this paean to New England one of her most satisfying.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307405975
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/2/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 172,523
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice  Hoffman

ALICE HOFFMAN is the acclaimed author of twenty-nine works of fiction, including The Story Sisters, The Third Angel, Practical Magic, Here on Earth, The Ice Queen, Turtle Moon, Illumination Night, and Blackbird House. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages and published in more than one hundred foreign editions.

Biography

Born in the 1950s to college-educated parents who divorced when she was young, Alice Hoffman was raised by her single, working mother in a blue-collar Long Island neighborhood. Although she felt like an outsider growing up, she discovered that these feelings of not quite belonging positioned her uniquely to observe people from a distance. Later, she would hone this viewpoint in stories that captured the full intensity of the human experience.

After high school, Hoffman went to work for the Doubleday factory in Garden City. But the eight-hour, supervised workday was not for her, and she quit before lunch on her first day! She enrolled in night school at Adelphi University, graduating in 1971 with a degree in English. She went on to attend Stanford University's Creative Writing Center on a Mirrellees Fellowship. Her mentor at Stanford, the great teacher and novelist Albert Guerard, helped to get her first story published in the literary magazine Fiction. The story attracted the attention of legendary editor Ted Solotaroff, who asked if she had written any longer fiction. She hadn't -- but immediately set to work. In 1977, when Hoffman was 25, her first novel, Property Of, was published to great fanfare.

Since that remarkable debut, Hoffman has carved herself a unique niche in American fiction. A favorite with teens as well as adults, she renders life's deepest mysteries immediately understandable in stories suffused with magic realism and a dreamy, fairy-tale sensibility. (In a 1994 article for The New York Times, interviewer Ruth Reichl described the magic in Hoffman's books as a casual, regular occurrence -- "...so offhand that even the most skeptical reader can accept it.") Her characters' lives are transformed by uncontrollable forces -- love and loss, sorrow and bliss, danger and death.

Hoffman's 1997 novel Here on Earth was selected as an Oprah Book Club pick, but even without Winfrey's powerful endorsement, her books have become huge bestsellers -- including three that have been adapted for the movies: Practical Magic (1995), The River King (2000), and her YA fable Aquamarine (2001).

Hoffman is a breast cancer survivor; and like many people who consider themselves blessed with luck, she believes strongly in giving back. For this reason, she donated her advance from her 1999 short story collection Local Girls to help create the Hoffman Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA.

Good To Know

  • Hoffman has written a number of children's books, including Fireflies: A Winter's Tale(1999), Horsefly (2000), and Moondog (2004).

  • Aquamarine was written for Hoffman's best friend, Jo Ann, who dreamed of the freedom of mermaids as she battled brain cancer.

  • Here on Earth is a modern version of Hoffman's favorite novel, Wuthering Heights.

  • Hoffman has been honored with the Massachusetts Book Award for her teen novel Incantation.
  • Read More Show Less
      1. Hometown:
        Boston, Massachusetts
      1. Date of Birth:
        March 16, 1952
      2. Place of Birth:
        New York, New York
      1. Education:
        B.A., Adelphi University, 1973; M.A., Stanford University, 1974
      2. Website:

    Reading Group Guide

    1. Hallie Brady’s story sets the stage, featuring a woman whose strength exceeds her husband’s and whose best source of solace and nourishment is a bear. What does the tale of Bearsville tell us about nature and survival? How do Harry’s actions reflect the dilemmas portrayed in the rest of the book?

    2. Enhance your reading with a bit of research on the real John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman. What makes him the ideal savior of the fictional Minette?

    3. Though she is not rescued in “The Year There Was No Summer,” Amy Starr reappears for future generations. What does her ghost signify to you? Did she liberate Mary by uniting her with Yaron?

    4. Like Hoffman’s character named Emily, poet Emily Dickinson did not complete her course of study at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. What does Charles Straw awaken in his young visitor? How does he help her become a “voyager” like him?

    5. “The River at Home” captures both the untold suffering and the healing that marked the home front during the Civil War and its aftermath. What ultimately restores Evan and Mattie?

    6. In “The Truth About My Mother,” how does Blackwell contrast with the modern world? What ultimately ensures that the characters can replace suffering with joy?

    7. At the beginning of “The Principles of Devotion,” Azurine says Sara taught her that “a woman who could rescue herself was a woman who would never be in need.” Do you agree? Are most of the people in your life able to rescue themselves, or do they need others to rescue them? What separates the survivors from the victims in The Red Garden?

    8. Discuss both Topsys: the brutalized Coney Island elephant (inspired by true, horrific events) and the dog that sustains Sara. Is the special relationship between humans and nonhuman creatures in The Red Garden magical or realistic?

    9. “The Fisherman’s Wife” showcases the Eel River and its hardy inhabitants in a dramatic way. What does this story tell us about fantastic storytelling, as Ben Levy required? What does the wife’s tale tell us about hunger in its many forms?

    10. Discuss the many types of love that emerge in “Kiss and Tell.” Although Hannah has to hide the truth about her romantic feelings, she is able to realize her dream of raising a child. In what ways does history repeat itself through the story of Blackwell?

    11. Blackwell is home to many outcasts seeking a new identity, but the townspeople often fail to identify their own “monsters.” How did you respond to the tale of Cal, whom Kate saves, versus Matthew, whose heart she steals? How are evil and injustice born in Blackwell?

    12. “Sin” captures the transient figures (family as well as friends) who shape a lifetime. Frank’s reunion with Jessie sparks memories but also raises a question: Who were the truly good people in their lives?

    13. What does Louise Partridge inherit other than a house? How did you react when Brian, the Harvard researcher she requested, was disappointed to find only bear bones? What stories, emotions, and experiences were planted and harvested in the red garden?

    14. James Mott seems cursed, yet he is also a healer. What is the role of fate in lives like his? Was he destined to succeed? Could you relate to the closing scene, in which James is watched over by his father and Cody? Do you feel protected by the spirit of loved ones who have passed away?

    15. Which characters were you most drawn to? How would you have fared in their situation? What did you discover about life and history by reading their stories?

    16. Discuss other Hoffman works you’ve read. What themes (perhaps of family, new identities, or the power of magical hope) echo throughout her previous books and The Red Garden? What unique vision of the human experience is presented in The Red Garden?

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    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 3.5
    ( 218 )
    Rating Distribution

    5 Star

    (54)

    4 Star

    (57)

    3 Star

    (47)

    2 Star

    (36)

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    (24)

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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 220 Customer Reviews
    • Posted February 9, 2011

      more from this reviewer

      Not to be missed.

      When one goes through a bit of a reading slump it's always a delight to be pulled back into the love of literature by one of your go-to, favorite authors. You know you'll never be disappointed, and I was not when I picked up Alice Hoffman's latest release, The Red Garden.

      A self-proclaimed love letter to Massachusetts, The Red Garden is a compilation of linked short stories revolving around the town of Blackwell. From the day Blackwell is founded, it becomes a town like no other. Whether the death of a small girl, the planting of an apple orchard, or the fish-like woman who stalks the shores of the Eel River, each story introduces a character we come to know intimately. Each glimpse into their lives is, albeit brief, entirely whole and endearing.

      Hoffman's stories range from the lighthearted and mischievous, to the eerie and sinister. Without straying from her classically magical prose, each tale is mythologically simplistic, yet haunting and sensual. We meet a hunchback who falls in love with the prettiest girl in town. We meet a woman living in solitude, afraid to admit to others her true desires. We meet two brothers, as different as night and day, traveling by foot through the woods with nothing but apple seeds and each other. It became a delight to finish one story and turn the page to the next, wondering what tale Hoffman would come up with.

      True to form, as delightful as every full novel I've read by her, The Red Garden is classic Hoffman in a fresh package. Though she has written story collections in the past, The Red Garden feels different; it feels like Hoffman truly invested a piece of herself in this one. For skeptics wary of the short story collection, take it not for granted. Hoffman shows us why this art form can be as extraordinary as a full novel. Not to be missed.

      11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 31, 2011

      An amazing story

      This is an amazing book. It kept me completely rivited. I recommened it for sure!

      8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 30, 2011

      more from this reviewer

      By the BOOK not the NOOK

      I was this was supposed to be used to review the BOOK not the NOOK.

      8 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 9, 2011

      Facinating and Beautiful

      The book was wonderful. It caught me from the very first page and I couldn't put it down. Highly recommend!

      7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Posted February 6, 2011

      i love the Nook

      I love my Nook, with the nook you can check out ebooks from your library for FREE which you cannot do with the Kindle. That has saved me lots of money.

      6 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted February 12, 2011

      Amazing

      It has been a long time since I have read a book that I can actually say was phenomenal. The characters and the way they intertwine throughout the book keep it easily flowing. It was a moving book with short stories that are sure to touch the heart of anyone reading the book. At times I found myself crying, especially over the dog that refused to leave his owner's grave day in and day out. I would highly recommend this book to everyone!

      5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted February 2, 2011

      more from this reviewer

      One of Hoffman's Best

      This book is stunning. I hated putting it down. Beautifully written with just the right amount of Hoffman's magic. I highly recommend this book.

      5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted July 13, 2011

      Pass

      This book sounded promising and the story it weaved over a centuries time would have been good if it had an ending that tied it all together. I kept reading (even through the chapters where I had no connection with the characters) because I thought the story would have been tied up in a nice package at the end. It was a big let down. Stick with Sarah Addison Allen for a story with a good ending.

      4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted May 16, 2011

      Highly Recommended

      As a long time Alice Hoffman fan, I consider this one of her best books. I love her sensitive writing about animals and nature plus there is always an element of magic. I shed a few tears reading this book.

      4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted May 4, 2011

      Lacking

      I didn't care for this one. Each chapter is based on different characters. Because of this, you barely get to know the characters, and it's difficult to really get into the story. By the end, the entire book seemed pointless. It felt like it had potential to be a good book, but overall it was just lacking.

      4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted February 13, 2011

      Perfect!!!

      Ah...do they get any better than Alice Hoffman? The Red Garden is a beautiful compilation of intertwined short stories that touch your heart and your imagination. The writing is magical and mythic. Reading Alice Hoffman is always a wonderful and addictive experience. Do not miss her latest achievement.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted February 28, 2011

      Worst A. Hoffman book I've ever read.

      I'm sorry but I found this book so boring. Each chapter a short story with many years between. I don't write book reviews so I don't really know all of the proper ways to say boring except boring. A real snoozer zzzzzzz. Uninteresting people leading uninteresting lives in an uninteresting town. I couldn't wait to be done with it and not happy that I paid to read this garbage. Don't waste your money.
      Also, did everyone think they were going to get their ebooks free? You can get free e-books in other places and they are always adding free ebooks on B&N. You can get free reading material at smashwords. You just have to look around. It may not be all the bestsellers but there are lots of good things to read. You just have to side load them.

      2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 9, 2011

      review

      Would be nice if someone actually did a review of the book instead of complain about the price

      2 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted February 5, 2011

      crabby crabby people

      did any of you even read this book? as for the kindle, the customer service is nill, no way to increase memory, no software updates, and can't do the library or other websites.

      2 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted June 29, 2012

      Loved this book

      If you could not figure out the links from one story\chapter in this book to the next, you weren't reading it very well. Each chapter could stand alone in its beautifully descriptive prose, but all the generations put together made an unforgettable story. Such a clever device, putting together a string of "snapshots" that give the reader insight into each character and that character's place in relation to the others in the narrative. The reading, having "met" each character's ancestor, comes to realize why each successive person behaves the way he or she does. One must discover each person through small, subtly revealing details that lead to a string of "aha" moments at the end of each chapter. When you finish one chapter you can't wait for the surprises in the next. It reminded me of the James Michener sagas, and also - thanks to that earlier reviewer for the reminder it IS a bit like The Red Violin although it is the town that is the common thread from generation to generation, not an object. I will definitely read more by this author.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted June 5, 2012

      No stars..

      I should have paid more attention to the reviews. I caught a few stories published free and thought eh, they must tie together eventually. For convenience I bought the book... very disappointing.

      1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted September 20, 2011

      Lovely, Intertwined Stories

      Fanciful and yet very real stories about human nature and life. This is a lovely book.

      1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted June 9, 2011

      I Also Recommend:

      Still good, but not my fav AH novel.

      I love the way she conveys aloneness.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted May 18, 2011

      Interesting

      Im not really sure how I feel about this book. Some of the stories are really touching. But so many people in the town are tortured souls- seriously no one is just plain happy?? But its interesting how all the lives entwine.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 15, 2013

      Highly recommended

      Thoroughly enjoyed this book and having such a different main character

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 220 Customer Reviews

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