The Red Garden

The Red Garden

by Alice Hoffman


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307405975
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 08/02/2011
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 103,101
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty bestselling works of fiction, including Practical Magic, a major motion picture; Here on Earth, an Oprah Book Club selection; the highly praised historical novel The Dovekeepers; and, most recently, The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Her books for teens include Green Angel, Green Witch, Incantation, The Fortelling, and Aquamarine, also a major motion picture, starring Emma Roberts. Visit her online at


Boston, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

March 16, 1952

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Adelphi University, 1973; M.A., Stanford University, 1974

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?

Customer Reviews

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The Red Garden 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 264 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 More than 1 year ago
A real good read from an emotionally mature writer. Much appreciated.
Anonymous More than 1 year 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.
recreational-reader More than 1 year ago
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.
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.
cinnamonowl on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Not my favorite book by Hoffman. I am a huge fan of magical realism in books, I love how authors can write a bit of fanciful magic into a realistic book. I think that is how life should be, everyday viewed with a bit of wonder. On this level, The Red Garden delivered. On others, I was left a little wanting more.The story in this book flows through time like the novel's Eel River, hopping from one generation to the next, with one character being somehow related to another in a previous chapter, whether it is niece, great-grandaughter, etc. Some of the stories I really enjoyed - the story with Johnny Appleseed, and the girl and the "monster" were my two favorites. I am going to say this for those out there who are like me, and can't stand when animals in books die- there are many deaths of beloved animals in this book. One story in particular, reminiscent of the Greyfriar's Bobby, killed me. I couldn't stand it, and I couldn't figure out why Hoffman kept throwing this heartwrenching animal stuff into the book. I also mentioned I was left wanting - the stories were short stories, and by the time you felt connected to a character, their particular story was over. I felt robbed in these instances. As for recommending it? If you are not a Hoffman fan already, this is not a good one to start with. It is not her best work, in my opinion, and while you can get a sense of her style, it is lacking. If I didn't already like her, I would never have finished this book. I saw glimpses of the Hoffman I liked, but it was not enough.This book, like The Kitchen House, to me was about love in all its forms, good, bad, ugly. More than anything, that is what I took away. The characters were imperfect, yet they all loved one thing more than anything in the world.