The Red Garden
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The Red Garden

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  9,305 ratings  ·  1,557 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' l...more
Hardcover, 270 pages
Published March 4th 2011 by Crown Publishing Group (NY) (first published January 25th 2011)
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Practical Magic by Alice HoffmanHere on Earth by Alice HoffmanThe Dovekeepers by Alice HoffmanThe Probable Future by Alice HoffmanThe Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
Best Alice Hoffman Novel
12th out of 34 books — 247 voters
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Best Books of 2011
222nd out of 2,132 books — 6,934 voters

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Will Byrnes
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
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
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
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
Elizabeth Van Orden
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...more
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...more
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...more
Annie Smidt
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...more
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
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
Alayne Bushey
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...more
Elisha Condie
I like Alice Hoffman. She writes beautifully and all her stories are infused with magic of some kind. This book is really a collection of short stories about a town in Massachusetts called Blackwell. It starts in the 17th century with the first settlers and then moves up into modern times - each chapter is a generation or so ahead of the last one.

I loved how she maintained some continuity throughout the book by mentioning characters from former chapters in latter ones. A character I liked fro...more
Read It Forward
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.
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Another stunner from Alice Hoffman. Is this woman even capable of writing a book you simply can't put down?

The Red Garden centers around a town named Blackwell, located in the Berkshires. In 1750 a small group of travelers get stranded in the woods one winter, and it's a feisty young girl named Hallie Brady who goes foraging for food and builds a shelter, saving their hides. Thus they take up residence in a place where bears are abundant, but the name is changed from Bearsville to Blackwell thir...more
Elisabeth Cole
I was a little disappointed in this book. I was so excited to read it I preordered it from B&N for my Nook, then started it the day it was available. I read it in a few days but felt it was really choppy. I couldn't see the link between the characters, other than the fact that they all lived in the same town. I didn't like that sometimes one would end and the next would start just a few decades later but you wouldn't find out what happened to the earlier character. (although a few times ther...more
Patsy Gantt
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
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
First Second Books
Magnificent read! Centered around from a fictional town in the Berkshires, and vignettes of a couple of families from the 1700s to the 1980s, The Red Garden centers around a plot of land where only red things grow. Around it heartbreak and hints of magic and mystery create a luminous, unforgettable sense of how life and legend are inseparable. Hoffman's prose builds and builds and left me with vivid memories of the people and places of her Blackwell, Massachusetts. One I'll read again.
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.
Peggy Sinden
This is a book that captures you from the very beginning and takes you through years of connected families all woven into a framework of time. I would highly reccomend it to all readers looking for a family to enjoy.
Rarely, like maybe three times in my life, have I entertained re-reading a book as soon as I finished it. The Red Garden is now in that rare list.

Almost a collection of beautiful short stories, Alice Hoffman lets us fall into the everyday lives of the inhabitants of Blackwell, Massachusetts beginning in 1750 at its founding until the present day. Each story is loosely woven into previous stories even while intertwining family members. A generation is skipped here or a story about a cousin follo...more
Autumn Brady

I love the set up of Alice Hoffman's book The Red Garden.

It starts out with a story about the first settlers of a small town called Blackwell. I guess the majority of these newbies did not have survival instincts...except one lady ( that I LOVED).. It's always the one person that the majority deem weird that saves their asses time and time again. Agreed?

Thereafter it tells the stories of the citizens in the future of this small but lovely town. Some of them have genealogical connections with the...more
Steve Lindahl
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
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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
More about Alice Hoffman...
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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.” 8 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.” 7 likes
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