The Red GardenBook - 2011
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.
From the critics
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Alice Hoffman is known for her character-driven stories that have elements of ‘magic realism’ – her characters might know what you dream, have an unnaturally hot touch, or might see how you will eventually die. In The Red Garden, the character that is mystical is actually the town of Blackwell, Massachusetts, and the founding families who have dwelt there through generations. The novel is actually a series of short stories each revolving around the town, in different periods. The first is set in 1750, the year the town was a settlement and 17-year old Hallie Brady saved the settlers from starving during the winter. She named the field Dead Husband’s Meadow, and protected the bears on Hightop Mountain. Such are the ways local legends are born. The next ‘chapter’ is set in 1792, a generation later, when a mystical man named John Chapman came to town, and planted an apple orchard – a variety that became known as the Blackwell Look-No-Further, it was so delicious. He camped in a part of town called Husband’s Meadow and loved all of nature. He also left behind a baby, the great-grandchild of Hallie, and a distinct love of nature that subsequent generations would inherit. And so it goes: Husband's Meadow becomes Band's Meadow, the descendants of Blackwell's settlers find love, loss, ghosts and belonging, and become legends to their own descendants. This novel, similar to Hoffman's Blackbird House, is a gem for readers who like tracing genealogy, or witnessing a town's historical microcosm develop, grow and change throughout time. Blackwell cannot isolate itself from world events, the Civil War, and World Wars touch it's citizen's lives, but the town below Hightop Mountain survives; the black eels in the river and black bears on the mountain sustaining, protecting and teaching each generation - in its own context - about life.
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