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The Red Garden

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  13,623 Ratings  ·  2,017 Reviews
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' liv
Hardcover, 270 pages
Published March 4th 2011 by Crown Publishing Group (NY) (first published January 1st 2011)
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Katie So overall I wouldn't say it's terribly confusing, I went into this book without reading anything about it (not even the inside cover) which was a…moreSo overall I wouldn't say it's terribly confusing, I went into this book without reading anything about it (not even the inside cover) which was a mistake because I didnt even know the premise of the book so that was..........rough until I realized one story pretty much had nothing to do with the other. From there it was a much easier read, but every so often they did reference characters from past stories and although it wasnt essential to remember them, I wanted to, which made it slightly more challenging. I would definitely recommend taking your time with it because I kind of sped through it (literally 2 days) and I'm disappointed I did. I feel like had I spent more time with each story, I could have appreciated them more.(less)
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Best Alice Hoffman Novel
8th out of 34 books — 300 voters
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Best Books of 2011
239th out of 2,339 books — 7,124 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Will Byrnes
Oct 08, 2014 Will Byrnes rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
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 more 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 q ...more
Darth J
DNF @ page 106
I 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% in.

Honestly, 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
Oct 19, 2011 Michele rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Apr 12, 2011 Jen rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Feb 21, 2011 Jeannine rated it really liked it
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 find.

I enjoyed the book more as I bega
Aug 09, 2011 Cori rated it it was ok
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 con ...more
Annie Smidt
Mar 21, 2013 Annie Smidt rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2013
A multi-century historical novel set in the Berkshires seemed, in theory, like a pleasant diversion, but I found this book pretty unengaging. Rather than some kind of intergenerational epic, it comes across more like a collection of short stories in which characters are somehow related but are also so shallowly depicted that it's hard enough to remember whom you're reading about, never mind how they fit into the bigger picture of families and events.

Many of the stories felt unfinished, or finis
In general, I dislike magical realism, but I love the brand of magical realism written by Alice Hoffman. I like that fact that Hoffman isn’t a “showy” writer, that she doesn’t depend on plots that carry the reader along at breakneck speed or, despite her fondness for magical realism, gimmicks. Alice Hoffman is, instead, a restrained writer, a gentle and quiet writer, and one who leaves the stylistic pyrotechnics to others. However, she’s a masterful storyteller and a gifted author.

Hoffman’s late
Alice Hoffman has written many books, but The Red Garden is the first one that I've read. I don't know how it compares to the rest of them, but I enjoyed it as my introduction to her work.

The Red Garden is a novel broken into seven short stories, all concerned with the same town of Blackwell in rural Massachusetts. The opening story, The Bear House, describes the arrival of the first settlers to the uninhabited wilderness and the set up of a first community, Bearsville in 1750 - named so after t
Elizabeth Van Orden
Feb 27, 2011 Elizabeth Van Orden rated it liked it
I wasn't as enthralled with the "magic" of the Red Garden as most other reviewers. Some of the stories were a lot of fun to read, others just dragged on. I never quite bought into the mystery of the garden, its red soil, and its inability to grow anything that wasn't red.

The story where the "paleontologist" from Harvard comes out was by far the worst. Hoffman confused paleontology with archaeology and should have done a little research before writing the nonsense she wrote. I went to graduate s
Nov 26, 2013 Britany rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Magical book taking place in Blackwell, Massachusetts. Starts back in the 1700s when the town was first founded and tells the stories within the town for the next 300 years. Filled with magic, love, loss, bears, and an apparition.

It centers around Hallie Brady and her blood red garden that transpires into the next generation and story...

I devoured each chapter as the narrator took me on a journey of Blackwell, and I learned about the different family lines and how they ended up crossing and cros
Oct 10, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it
I'm new to this author but haven't been disappointed yet. This is a series of short stories spanning around 250 years covering the people of Blackwell. The only criticism I would have would be some stories stopped short for me. Thus being "short stories". I'm a detail person so I wanted to know the whys and hows of every story. Sometimes it left you hanging to gleam from it what you will. Very well written! I'm a Hoffman fan as of a few weeks ago. I look forward to more of her tales.
Feb 04, 2011 Diane rated it really liked it
From a summary: The Red Garden introduces us to the luminous and haunting world of Blackwell, Massachusetts. 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.

I haven't read an Alice Hoffman book for a few years, but I was intrigued by this one right from the first page. There's something comforting about following families over a three hundred year period -- especially whe
Aug 18, 2011 Melki rated it really liked it
Another absolutely lovely book by Alice Hoffman. I cannot think of a fiction writer who is better at describing the outdoors. She makes me see the sunlight filtering through the trees, leaving honey-colored splotches on the ground. I can hear the locusts, smell the lilacs and feel the moss between my toes. A year from now I won't be able to remember a thing about this book other than the fact that reading it made me feel quite pleased with the universe.
Sep 08, 2016 Kim rated it liked it
3.5 stars, mini stories that are all intertwined. So good!
This book spans from 1786 to the 1990s. Each chapter is a different time in the history and community of Blackwell, Massachusetts, from it's first settlers to a story about a son returning home for his father's funeral probably sometime in the 1990s.

Alice Hoffman is a storyteller. She knows how to frame a story and then how to take you along so you need to know what's going to happen and how it ends. This was a wonderful journey and a reminder that we have roots even if we don't always want the
Jan 25, 2012 Diane rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-fiction
What an enchanting book! I loved it from the first chapter, which tells the story of how a group of settlers got stranded during winter of 1750 in Massachusetts, and they ended up forming a town. There was a heroine, Hallie Brady, who saved the settlers from starvation with help from a bear, and her life became folklore that was handed down through the generations.

But it wasn't until the second or third chapter that I realized what Hoffman had done -- she covered 250 years of history of the town
Mar 31, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it
A friend and I are on an Alice Hoffman kick and he encouraged me to grab a copy of The Red Garden. "Read and we will discuss". And since I will do anything for a dinner and a book discussion, I was on the case. Since I love books with interconnecting stories, this book hit the spot with me. The unifying theme is the history of a small town in the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts and the people who have lived there. I love that area so I was predisposed favorably to like the book even ...more
Oct 11, 2014 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
There were parts of this novel, or set of short stories, or whatever it is, that were great. There were a few distractions though that kept me from fully enjoying it.

These stories all center around the lives and interactions held between the people who reside in (or come through) Blackwell, Massachusetts. They range from the moment it was settled by the town's founding families to almost modern day. The writing is quite good from a language and syntax standpoint. You get wrapped up into the liv
Feb 11, 2011 Karen rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle
This novel is not a winner for Hoffman. The main character is the town of Blackwell and it's founding family. Hoffman takes us through about two centuries of the family, with stories of the family members. The problem with the novel is the stories are to fragmented. Hoffman divides the chapters into time periods, and gives the reader what amount to vingettes of family members in this periods. When she moves to the next chapter and next time period it is hard to tell how the characters in the cur ...more
Patsy Gantt
Feb 10, 2011 Patsy Gantt rated it it was ok
Not up to Alice Hoffman's usual standards. The idea was intriguing - telling the story of the town through a couple of centuries through the eyes of different residents. The residents are all related in one way or another and each short story ties the current resident back to pioneers of the town. Each story was in itself interesting. The book held my attention but mainly because I kept expecting more from Ms. Hoffman. You figure you know why the garden only grows red plants, but when you are to ...more
Alayne Bushey
Feb 09, 2011 Alayne Bushey rated it it was amazing
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 deat
The things I like most in Alice Hoffman's books are: gardens, sisters, the effects and affects of ancestors on later characters, old houses, and history/nostalgia.
This book has them all, so of course I liked this book.
It evokes moments from many of her other stories - a woman inadvertantly forming the path her family will take for decades to come (Practical Magic), the life and death of gardens with specific emphasis on tomatoes (The Story Sisters), following lives to create the full story (The
Apr 10, 2013 Susan rated it did not like it
Well, normally I like Alice Hoffman, but I did not like this book. It covers the time period from 1750 to present. It is about a small, fictional town somewhere in Massachusetts, founded in 1750. And each entry (there are 14 of them) involves someone a decade later who was related somehow to the person in the entry before them. I found it boring...and it was hard to keep track of how each person was related to the previous people...or perhaps because I was not very interested, I neglected to kee ...more
May 31, 2013 ☕Laura rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It is essentially a collection of short stories all set in the town of Blackwell, Massachusetts beginning with its founding in 1750 and continuing on to the present day. Each story would be complete and entertaining on its own, but taken together they reveal the history of this town and its colorful inhabitants, particularly the descendants of Hallie Brady, a brave pioneer who saved the lives of her fellow settlers. Woven throughout the stories is the tale of the red ...more
Read It Forward
Jan 19, 2011 Read It Forward rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Enchanting! This may be my favorite Alice Hoffman book since Practical Magic - and that's saying a lot because I love all her books. It's got that Alice Hoffman fairy-tale magic, to be sure, along with characters that come to life right off the page. Her writing in this one is simply luminescent.
Steve Lindahl
May 04, 2013 Steve Lindahl rated it really liked it
The Red Garden is a collection of loosely connected short stories. The connections come primarily through the setting, Blackwell, which is a small town in rural Massachusetts once known as Bearsville. A few characters show up in multiple stories, but for the most part each story moves years forward so the characters from one are now either dead, missing, or old enough to be living through their memories. I love Alice Hoffman's writing style. This book, like the others I've read (The Third Angel ...more
Jan 26, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

THE RED GARDEN follows the lives of the inhabitants of Blackwell, Massachusetts, from its founding in 1750 to the present. The reader is swept up in three hundred years of stories from this small town. Some of the stories are driven by fate and some of the individuals make their own destiny. There is even a little magical realism woven into the tales. The book begins with the founders of the town who came by wagon train to the far side o
Aug 05, 2011 Erin rated it liked it
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, w
This novel lacks the immediacy of many of Hoffman's books. That's not necessarily bad, only different. Instead of an intense focus on a couple of main characters, here she takes a broad, historical view.

The red garden of the title is located in the fictional town of Blackwell, MA. The dirt in the garden is red, only red plants will grow there, and Blackwell is heavily populated by residents with flaming red hair - descendants of Hallie Brady, the town founder.

Beginning with Hallie, Hoffman relat
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Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York ...more
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“She liked to disappear, even when she was in the same room as other people. It was a talent, as it was a curse.” 20 likes
“They say that dogs may dream, and when Topsy was old, his feet would move in his sleep. With his eyes closed he would often make a noise that sounded quite human, as if greeting someone in his dreams. At first it seemed that he believed Sara would return, but as the years went by I understood that his loyalty asked for no reward, and that love comes in unexpected forms. His wish was small, as hers had been -- merely to be beside her. As for me, I already knew I would never get what I wanted.” 13 likes
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