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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 exuisite 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 actionsFrom 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 arrivesAt 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 lookBeautifully crafted shimmering with magic The Red Garden is as unforgettable as it is moving


10 thoughts on “The Red Garden

  1. says:

    Hoffman is in familiar magical turf in this collection of charming and engaging if not always happy stories The unifying core is the history of a town from founding as Bearsville which includes a very significant nod to Romulus and Remus to present Blackwell MA and particularly with a special garden behind the founder’s house the Red Garden of the title It has some lightly magical properties There are mythical figures to be seen here as well as spirits some folks who are of uestionable species people with craft y skills people who have been damaged by the world and those with a drive to wander Bears figure prominently both as a source of comfort and danger Although there are dark doings in some of the stories I found them overall delightful Alice Hoffman image fr0m the Early Bird BooksHoffman is a big fan of fairy tales and many of the stories here would fit uite nicely into that genre There are plenty of classic references as well from a Tree of Life to elements of the founding of Rome and recent lore such as Johnny Appleseed And any garden must of course refer back to the first one This is a plot rich with literary and cultural references and those who enjoy digging in such soil will emerge with happily muddy hands Through all is a fascination with our attachment to the land The Tree of Life stands in nicely for the life giving roots the Red Garden’s characters grow in their home The red of the primal garden flows through several of the stories in which objects with a source in or touched by the garden take on the color There are nods toward transcendentalism with characters finding solace only when communing with nature Some shapes are even shifted Characters flow from one story into the next which proceed in chronological order children in a story appear as adults in a later one Characters who die early may appear as spirits later One gripe I have with the book is that the characters are often very engaging and it was disappointing to have to leave their side after only a few pages I was delighted by The Red Garden Alice Hoffman always offers a good read and I found this one better than mostEXTRA STUFFLinks to the author’s personal and FB pagesOther Hoffman books I have reviewed Local Girls Green Angel Blackbird House The Ice ueen The Dovekeepers The Rules of Magic


  2. says:

    DNF page 106I tried guys I really did But at just over 100 pages the story still didn’t grab me Which is a shame because I’ve read some really thoughtful reviews of this book that made me interested in the first place The thing was that I found this just to be too rambly and depressing not to mention that the story still wasn’t going anywhere at nearly 40% inHonestly there are only so many animal and child deaths I can read about in a book before I put it down I get that it’s a part of frontier life but come on Alice Hoffman It just seemed like each chapter was littered with some kind of tragedy to an innocentThen Johnny Appleseed just rolls through town and plants than just apple seedsSorry I know people seem to love this author but this brand of “literature” was too bland and slow for my tastes I would recommend Garden Spells instead for a story with magical realism apples and a town history


  3. says:

    I'm new to Alice Hoffman and starting out with her lesser known books This was the perfect book to read early on It's a series of linked short stories taking place in the town of Blackwell Massachusetts over a span of 300 years A few of the stories were so fascinating I wanted to hear From only a few of Hoffman's books I can see the magical realism is strong which I love I'm not sure why but when I listen toread Hoffman's books I think of books by Sarah Addison Allen Both drip in magical realism I find Allen's books to be so comforting and perhaps that is why I think of them while reading these works Hoffman's books have that same magical comforting feelingI listened to this one via audio but also had the digital print to refer to Which was perfect as there was one story I wanted to revisit and did so via the print I look forward to reading from Hoffman Perhaps the next one it will be extra cozy with a read under a blanket near the fireplace As there is nothing comforting to me than that


  4. says:

    Writers have this hankering to create fictional landscapes and populate them with characters who cut across narratives Maruez's Macondo Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County and Hardy's Wessex are examples which readily spring to mind Over the course of many stories these countries of the imagination take on a life of their own and will generate their own myths histories and legends living on even after their creators are no as Lovecraft's Chthulu Mythos does In this book of collected short stories Alice Hoffman creates her own landscape of the mind the town of Blackwell Massachusetts hidden by the Hightop Mountains a craggy Berkshire County landmark that separated Blackwell from the rest of the worldOf course Blackwell has not always been called by that name originally it was Bearsville when it was founded in 1750 The narrative starts with that story the tale of the brave and hardy Hallie Brady who carved out the town almost single handed It is a fairy tale of young Harry Partridge who was suckled by a she bear and of Halley Brady herself who forms a blood bond with the bear and disappears into the woods on its deathThen the stories follow roughly in intervals of 20 30 years as America becomes 'civilised' and the history of the previous stories move into the realm of legends and ultimately into the territory of myth There is Halley and her she bear there is the Tree of Life at the centre of the town reportedly planted by Johnny Appleseed actually John Chapman a drifter who came town in his teens which is never without fruit Amy Starr who drowns in the Eel River and becomes a ghost and finally a character in a play enacted every year like a ritual Characters from one story appear in another told through an entirely different perspective from a different point of view and most importantly they are all related in some way or other to one another as the surnames which keep on reappearing show Bradley Partridge Mott Starr etc all descended from a handful of original settlersThere are shades of familiar fairy tale motifs in these shorts the fisherman's wife who is actually a mermaid the monster in the woods who falls for a pretty girl and most prominently in the title story The Red Garden in the mystery of the piece of land which turned everything planted in it red And when the last story ends with a burial we become aware of what the author is trying to say James thought about the garden with soil so red it seemed to have a bloody beating heart He thought about it where it was people went when they died and how when he suinted he could see Cody racing back and forth barking how his father seemed to stand right there on the riverbank turning back the bees closer than he'd ever been before The soil is alive so are the people who have passed and the people who have yet to come This is America a comparatively young land but with a heart which is centuries oldFive well deserved stars


  5. says:

    While I enjoyed each individual story the 2 star rating comes mostly from the frustration I had due to the fact that the stories were just far apart enough in time and with just similar enough names given names as well as surnames that I was never sure who was related to whom and what the lineage was Two things that could have helped with this would have been a to make the stories just a bit closer in time historically or b to provide a family tree chart at the front of the book Or both As it was I eventually stopped trying to connect everyone but it detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book I especially liked how Dead Husband's Meadow became Husband's Meadow and eventually Band's Meadow and wished there had been references like this Harry's Bear was mentioned once and could have been a great place name to see a century later but we never heard it again Red Garden had a lot potential than it delivered ultimately and I was a bit disappointed in it because I usually have a much stronger connection to Alice Hoffman's books My two favorites remain Blue Diary and The River King


  6. says:

    What another joy it was to read The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman its only short 270 pages but again she takes on a magical journey of the descendants of Blackwell Massachusetts it was formally known as Bears Ville for the obvious reasons Miss Hoffman opens up with 4 families who risk all in the coldest winter William brady is looking for a wife he meets Hallie who was an orphan she was 14 he was 40 they married William set out on an expedition along with Hallie who was self sufficient they get four families to join them but Hallie soon works out her husband is a charlatan he leads them in circleHallie knows how to survive the cold winters amongst bears eel lake she will kill to survive but the men in the other families don't have those skills The short stories involve the siblings of Hallie William Brady sons of fathers daughters or cousins etc I found this very fast paced was a very easy read their was death life hardships encountered through 300 years of the Brady's descendants was a joy to read the characters were engaging I loved how every story throughout was somehow related to the previous one just finished Miss Hoffman weaves a tale of realism in this book the hardships families endured even though the war was raging their survival was paramount another gem by Alice Hoffman have 2 to read The Ice ueen The Dove keeper will read both by the end of the year hopefully actually loved the setting in the wilderness with the bears coyotes collies it was atmospheric well written loved everything about this book


  7. says:

    Due to my busy schedule I often read right before I go to bed So for me the mark of a good book is one that I pick up about half an hour before bedtime and refuse to put down until my eyes are absolutely closing with fatigue The Red Garden is such a book It's magical whimsical powerful Although the stories making up a patchwork history of Blackwell MA are set in different times with mostly different casts of characters you can trace the common themes and family names that wind their way through the tales like vines I would absolutely read it again and recommend to discerning bookfiend friends


  8. says:

    Most reviews of The Red Garden see it as a series of linked stories covering the history of small Blackwell MA aka Bearville from its founding in 1750 to almost the present day 1990s I began reading the book this way but it started to feel repetitious The stories are too tenuously connected to be read as a novel like series of linked stories The sister of a character in one story may appear on the fringes of the next but the significance is hard to findI enjoyed the book as I began to read it as a piece of experimental fiction a Tarot deck of about a dozen characters—human or not—that Hoffmann continually reshuffles and deals into new configurations To witThe Red Haired WomanGirlThe Solitary ManLost BoyThe LoverThe OutsiderThe NewcomerThe BearThe DogThe Eel RiverThe Apple TreeThe MeadowThe MuseumThe Red Garden aka the Private GraveThe Red Haired WomanGirl begins as Hallie Brady the naïve bride of William Brady an excellent salesman but hapless pioneer who convinces three other families to join him on a journey to colonize a new town in the West They get as far as Bearsville located on The Eel River where they are snowed in for the winter They would have died as in all good pioneer stories except for Hallie’s resourcefulness and her strange but wondrous relationship with a hibernating bear From these seeds grows a town started by the four founding families visited by The Outsiders including Johnny Appleseed who plants The Apple Tree and The Newcomers who become staples of the community—or not The roles and the stories change with the times and with the particular characters subtly suggesting that outcomes may differ depending on a single choice or character trait The elements of the setting are as much characters as are the people The Museum reflects the town’s fortune prospering when the town does and closing when it doesn’t The Meadow which a disillusioned Hallie Brady wishfully named “Dead Husband’s Meadow” evolves into Husband’s Meadow and finally to Band’s Meadow as the people in the town become less tolerant of irony and difference The Eel River feeds and is fed by the town and provides a supply of leather for export And the titular Red Garden is also the Private Grave where nothing is planted but dead hopes or everything that’s planted grows red Throughout the book Hoffman’s language is as haunting as it is in her 20 or so other books She shows a new world inside of our own world The two may not be as different as one might think


  9. says:

    My low rating of this book probably stems from having just read Jhumpa Lahiri’s beautiful and haunting short stories The Red Garden is also broken into stories connected through a town’s lineage with characters appearing at different ages in different stories For some reason I could not connect with this book at all While her writing style was appealing and easy to listen to the plot and characters felt distant and a little forced I had a hard time wrapping my brain around some of the connections in the stories and spent too much time pondering for example who Kate was and where she appeared in previous stories This being an audio book I couldn’t flip backward and find out and I ended up missing bits and pieces of the story I was currently listening to I found that frustrating but I don’t think it would have been such a problem with the print version of the bookOne thing I really look for in short stories is humanity I want the author to delve into people and find out what makes them them For the most part this felt like I was just listening to people grow up without ever finding out what made them human There were some stories that accomplished this better than others I liked the story about the “monster” of Blackwell but for the most part I was disappointed It’s not good when you’re longing for a book to end so you can move onto something elseRead my full review here


  10. says:

    Did not finish DNF 17%It's always so sad to DNF a book by one of your favorite authors But I just couldn't get into this one at all I've been trying to make myself read it since July and it's October Let's face it it's just not working outI think the reason I couldn't get into it is the same reason I find it hard to read short stories I get used to the character and bam they're gone This was just like that Okay so maybe she does weave a bigger tale about the whole town through the characters but I'm not okay with 5% of the book per character and then never seeing them again It's too little I can't get invested at all