Alayne Bushey's Reviews > The Red Garden

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman
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Feb 09, 11

Read in February, 2011

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 death of a small girl, the planting of an apple orchard, or the fish-like woman who stalks the shores of the Eel River, each story introduces a character we come to know intimately. Each glimpse into their lives is, albeit brief, entirely whole and endearing.

Hoffman’s stories range from the lighthearted and mischievous, to the eerie and sinister. Without straying from her classically magical prose, each tale is mythologically simplistic, yet haunting and sensual. We meet a hunchback who falls in love with the prettiest girl in town. We meet a woman living in solitude, afraid to admit to others her true desires. We meet two brothers, as different as night and day, traveling by foot through the woods with nothing but apple seeds and each other. It became a delight to finish one story and turn the page to the next, wondering what tale Hoffman would come up with.

True to form, as delightful as every full novel I’ve read by her, The Red Garden is classic Hoffman in a fresh package. Though she has written story collections in the past, The Red Garden feels different; it feels like Hoffman truly invested a piece of herself in this one. For skeptics wary of the short story collection, take it not for granted. Hoffman shows us why this art form can be as extraordinary as a full novel. Not to be missed.

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