The Red Garden

The Red Garden

3.4 234
by Alice Hoffman

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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…  See more details below


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

Library Journal
Set in a mythical town tucked deep in the Berkshire Mountains, Hoffman's ( 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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The Red Garden 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 234 reviews.
TheCrowdedLeaf More than 1 year ago
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.
Cheriemimi More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book. It kept me completely rivited. I recommened it for sure!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was wonderful. It caught me from the very first page and I couldn't put it down. Highly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
anonymous67 More than 1 year ago 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.
jessie2 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
A_FriendJG More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! The author does a great job of showing how entwined all our lives can be and how our secrets and lies play a part in the lives of others. This was my first time reading anything by Alice Hoffman but it will not be my last.
gailaleaGS More than 1 year ago
I love the way she conveys aloneness.
Heather Bash More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Jennifer Boynton More than 1 year ago
Magical, mystical fairy tales! I couldn't put this book down.
Mary Willis More than 1 year ago
Alice Hoffman has a distinctive writing style and these stories are faithful to her talent for intertwining characters over time
Anonymous 9 months ago
A real good read from an emotionally mature writer. Much appreciated.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Really good. Vignettes of life from a few families in a small town, concentrated on love and loss and love found again. Haunting and deeply moving. Many reviewers are upset this is not a neatly tied package where all stories suddenly get resolved at the end. Don't expect that kind of closure and you will find this a lovely read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I began the book, I wasn't sure what I was reading as I bought it awhile back, but I quickly got into the interesting way the author brought these stories to life. It reminds me of my friend, Harry Chapin's, creative way of presenting his songs through story-telling. Then I looked at the author's name and realized her strong background. This is well presented and very different. I read it in my garden in the Spring, so fitting, and really enjoyed each story and the way she cleverly brought the stories to life.
Love_my_BooksDJ More than 1 year ago
A beautiful cohesive story spanning over two hundred years in a small Massachusetts village. Touching, provocative characters form and pass on as each chapter of this small history unfolds. Excellent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! I finished it in one night!
Chowbell More than 1 year ago
Fanciful and yet very real stories about human nature and life. This is a lovely book.
Charlotte_Isabella More than 1 year ago
Not the best book in the world, but a sufficient easy read. This is a collection of short stories, the only thing in common with all of them is that they are somehow all related (the characters are somehow all related to one another). The stories are very well written, but are anti-climactic. This is not the most exciting book on the bookshelf, but if you just want to float to another small town and see things through their eyes...this is the book for you.
CTNooker More than 1 year ago
I found this book easy to read and cleverly written. Each chapter is a short story about a small town as it evolved over the last 260 or so years, illustrating how times change, people change, and how families grow and touch each other's lives.
dragonflyNY More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed this collection of tales.
Anonymous 6 months ago
I was lost in every story. Whether it ended in heartbreak or love I become entranced with the characters and their lives. And I loved watching a small community grow and live. I highly recommend this book. One of the most intriguing I have read in a very long time!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not sure what the point of this book was .Reading this book was like traveling through a sea of chaotic thought