The Red Garden, by Alice Hoffman (New York: Crown Publishers, 2011)
"The Red Garden introduces us to the luminous and haunting world of Blackwell, Massachusetts, capturing the unexpected turns in history 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 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."
"The town of Blackwell, Massachusetts changed its name in 1786. It had been called Bearsville when it was founded in 1750, but it quickly became apparent that a name such as that did little to encourage new settlers."
The language Hoffman uses here really is lovely, as are some of the stories ... but that's how this book reads; more like a collection of loosely connected (by place) short stories than a coherent novel. Perhaps I'm just reading this one too closely on the heels of Last Days of Dogtown, but that novel conveyed a truer and more nuanced sense of place than The Red Garden manages to do. Then too, I'm not a huge short story fan, and don't usually care for the handful of supernatural elements the author throws in. Well done, but not an all-time favorite.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.