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The Red Garden

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3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  15,171 Ratings  ·  2,189 Reviews
In exquisite prose, Hoffman offers a transforming glimpse of small-town America, presenting more than 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.

The Red Garden introduces us to the luminous and haunting world of Blackwell, Massachusetts, capturing the unexp
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Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 2nd 2011 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Mary Ambrosino I loved this book and was facinated by the way each chapter linked another character with on previous one. It really shows the progression of people…moreI loved this book and was facinated by the way each chapter linked another character with on previous one. It really shows the progression of people in the town and makes you feel like everything in life in according to a master plan and everything is linked together. Now I am checking the library for any of her books I may have missed.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Will Byrnes
Feb 16, 2011 Will Byrnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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PorshaJo
I'm new to Alice Hoffman and starting out with her lesser known books. This was the perfect book to read early on. It's a series of linked short stories taking place in the town of Blackwell, Massachusetts over a span of 300 years. A few of the stories were so fascinating I wanted to hear more. From only a few of Hoffman's books, I can see the magical realism is strong (which I love). I'm not sure why but when I listen to/read Hoffman's books, I think of books by Sarah Addison Allen. Both drip i ...more
Nandakishore Varma
Writers have this hankering to create fictional landscapes and populate it with characters who cut across narratives. Marquez's Macondo, Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County and Hardy's Wessex are examples which readily spring to mind. Over the course of many stories, these countries of the imagination take on a life of their own and will generate their own myths, histories and legends - living on even after their creators are no more, as Lovecraft's Chthulu Mythos does. In this book of collected sho ...more
Michele
Oct 19, 2011 Michele rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jen
Apr 11, 2011 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jeannine
Feb 21, 2011 Jeannine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Cori
Aug 09, 2011 Cori rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez
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
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Britany
Mar 06, 2012 Britany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Maciek
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
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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
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Melki
Aug 16, 2011 Melki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Laura
Oct 01, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Diane
Feb 02, 2011 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Diane
Jan 11, 2012 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Erica
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
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Susan
Apr 10, 2013 Susan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kim
Sep 05, 2016 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars, mini stories that are all intertwined. So good!
Michelle
May 14, 2017 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-buy
Wow!

I'll be honest - at first this book annoyed me. Each chapter addresses a particular set of characters in the town of Blackwell, each in a succeeding generation. The chapters move quickly and many of them left me wanting more. It was like following a butterfly dancing from flower to flower, as you follow along hoping that this time it will sit still long enough for you to admire it fully. It never happens.

But as I continued on through this richly descriptive tale, I became aware that this bo
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Judy
Mar 31, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Josh
Oct 07, 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
...more
Karen
Feb 11, 2011 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
☕Laura
May 11, 2013 ☕Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Cathie
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
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Alayne Bushey
Feb 09, 2011 Alayne Bushey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Read It Forward
Jan 19, 2011 Read It Forward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Allison
May 20, 2017 Allison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Alice Hoffman is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. She has the rare ability to craft sumptuous stories that you can't put down. The Red Garden is filled with marvellous not-so-tales throughout the 300 year history of a sleepy Massachusetts town.
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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.” 23 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.” 14 likes
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