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The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman
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The Red Garden (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Alice Hoffman

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7815911,802 (3.72)70
Member:OneMorePage
Title:The Red Garden
Authors:Alice Hoffman
Info:Broadway (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Fiction
Rating:****
Tags:Massachusetts, Magical Realism, Folklore, Small Town, Short Stories, Read 2012

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The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman (2011)

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Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
Six-word review: Linked stories explore dimensions of solitude.

Extended review:

When it comes to fiction, I'm not much of a day tripper. I prefer long journeys. So I don't read many short stories, not when I can settle into a hefty novel and live with it for a while.

For the Kindle, however, it's nice to have some brief reading matter to pick up on my way out the door when I'm going to be sitting in a waiting room or taking someone on an errand. So, without seeking it out or particularly choosing it, I just sort of happened to find myself reading "The Bear's House," the first story in Alice Hoffman's The Red Garden.

This, my friends, is what serendipity is for.

The first of these lovely stories, which together span more than two hundred years, sets the scene and the tone: in an eighteenth-century settlement in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, an unconventional young woman's courage and resourcefulness save a snowbound village from starvation. Hallie Brady, like the main characters in the stories that follow, lives within herself, a part of and yet apart from the community. The bond that she forms with an orphaned bear cub imparts a mystical quality that tinges all fourteen of these contemplative tales.

Each of the individual protagonists is out of step with the community, and yet not disconnected from it. The town of Blackwell and the surrounding area, including Hightop Mountain and the Eel River, supply context and definition. Familial links among generations of residents, local lore, and natural and man-made features blend in a tapestry that evokes memories in the reader akin to the collective memories of the villagers. There is a sense that these fourteen tales, selected as if from the portraits in a gallery, are but a few of the many that might be told but that remain tantalizingly beyond reach. The evolution of place names and folklore and the commemoration in ritual of past events remind us of the inextricable threads of history, tradition, and myth.

Taken together, these stories form a cycle with universal themes of survival and loss, belonging and isolation, and existential aloneness. I found them beautiful and satisfying.

(Kindle edition) ( )
2 vote Meredy | Dec 5, 2014 |
This is a beautifully written book of interconnecting short stories. The first one "The Bear's House" was just about as perfect as a story can be. I was also captivated by the one about the 10 year old and her mother who escape to the town, the one about the faithful dog and the one about the woman who drops out of Radcliffe and finds dinosaur bones in the garden. These are people you'd want to know. ( )
  Citizenjoyce | Nov 21, 2014 |
A quick, easy read that is more like a collection of related short stories. The writing is lovely, but lacked the thought provoking feel of some of her other writing. Still worth the read. ( )
  klarsenmd | Nov 14, 2014 |
Interesting concept -- one town, 300 years. Each chapter is a short story about the town and a family member of one of the four founding families. The challenge with the book is attempting to keep track of the characters, and how they're connected. (I actually had to make a chart - and even that didn't help much.) Some stories were interesting character studies, others just seemed out of place, and did little to add to the overall journey.

In my opinion, the last story was one too many -- the book felt "finished" with the second to last chapter. But all in all, something worth keeping on the bedside table for those nights when you can't sleep, or need a "curl up and read" on a rainy day book.
  Rigfield | Sep 27, 2014 |
Words just seem to flow from Alice Hoffman, drawing characters in spare delicate prose, at the same time telling the brutal truth. She is a poet, a story teller, and a truth teller. ( )
  sdunford | Jun 27, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
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In memory of Albert J. Guerard, the great critic, writer, and teacher, who in his fifty years at Harvard and Stanford universities changed the voice of American fiction and also changed my life
First words
The town of Blackwell, Massachusetts, changed its name in 1786.
Quotations
He felt...as if the cells of his body had expanded to include fir trees, foxes, streams of green water. (p. 222)
Anyone else might have guessed the garden she planted would be white, but Charles had seen it all exactly as she'd crafted it before he went away, the flash of scarlet, the trail of blood, the inside story of who she was. (p.66)
"I intend to remind her that she's alive." (p.38)
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Book description
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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A young wounded civil war solider is saved by a passionate neighbor, a woman meets a fiercely human historical character, a poet falls in love with a blind man, and a mysterious traveler 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.… (more)

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