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The Red Garden Paperback – August 2, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hoffman brings us 200 years in the history of Blackwell, a small town in rural Massachusetts, in her insightful latest. The story opens with the arrival of the first settlers, among them a pragmatic English woman, Hallie, and her profligate, braggart husband, William. Hallie makes an immediate and intense connection to the wilderness, and the tragic severing of that connection results in the creation of the red garden, a small, sorrowful plot of land that takes on an air of the sacred. The novel moves forward in linked stories, each building on (but not following from) the previous and focusing on a wide range of characters, including placid bears, a band of nomadic horse traders, a woman who finds a new beginning in Blackwell, and the ghost of a young girl drowned in the river who stays in the town's consciousness long after her name has been forgotten. The result is a certain ethereal detachment as Hoffman's deft magical realism ties one woman's story to the next even when they themselves are not aware of the connection. The prose is beautiful, the characters drawn sparsely but with great compassion. (Jan.) (c)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

According to the critics, The Red Garden is among Alice Hoffman’s recent best. She can occasionally be melodramatic, her stories overrun by fairy tale syntax. Although the magical abounds here—women become eels—there is little, if anything, that is overdone. Not every story is wholly believable, but “Hoffman’s consciously simple style transforms people’s pain into mythic parable” (Washington Post), so that the mythic then becomes lore. Only the Boston Globe cited the collection as somewhat uneven, with the best stories (including “The Red Garden”) absolutely bewitching and the lesser ones simplistic and implausible. But that is to be expected from an author with her own peculiar, enchanting brand of magical realism. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307405974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307405975
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (357 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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.

Hoffman's first novel, Property Of, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become Property Of, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff's magazine, American Review.

Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has become one of our most distinguished novelists. She has published a total of eighteen novels, two books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, Here on Earth, an Oprah Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte's masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Practical Magic was made into a Warner film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Her novel, At Risk, which concerns a family dealing with AIDS, can be found on the reading lists of many universities, colleges and secondary schools. Her advance from Local Girls, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman (Women's Cancer) Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Blackbird House is a book of stories centering around an old farm on Cape Cod. Hoffman's recent books include Aquamarine and Indigo, novels for pre-teens, and The New York Times bestsellers The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, and The Ice Queen. Green Angel, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about loss and love, was published by Scholastic and The Foretelling, a book about an Amazon girl in the Bronze Age, was published by Little Brown. In 2007 Little Brown published the teen novel Incantation, a story about hidden Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which Publishers Weekly has chosen as one of the best books of the year. In January 2007, Skylight Confessions, a novel about one family's secret history, was released on the 30th anniversary of the publication of Her first novel. Her most recent novel is The Story Sisters (2009), published by Shaye Areheart Books.

Hoffman's work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay "Independence Day" a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Wiest. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel Aquamarine was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

183 of 189 people found the following review helpful By Katawampas TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This story is pure Alice Hoffman magic. She begins the story in 1750 with the settlers who founded the town of Bearsville, MA (name changed to Blackwell in 1786). Every chapter moves the story to another time period concluding sometime in the 2000's. The book reads like a seamless book of short stories, each chapter informing and building on the previous. Hoffman has a gift for sharply focusing on the main character of each time period as she moves the story of this small mountain town along, revealing an inner truth.

Characters come to town, live, leave, die, wander, return but always carry the thread of the town with them. The characters are so beautifully written, it's hard to choose a favorite chapter/story. The two chapters I enjoyed most were "The Principles of Devotion", the story of a loyal dog living at the grave of his owner and the "Monster of Blackwell", a young man who separates himself from society and lives in the mountains outside Blackwell. These chapters are achingly beautiful.

The red garden refers to the founder's (Hallie Brady) garden where the soil is as red as blood and everything that grows in it is red. Perhaps a symbol of life and death; the connection we all have to nature and each other.

Hoffman doesn't go on and on with flowery prose; her writing is edited, beautiful and powerful. She always manages to capture the beauty of a moment and the setting of the story, infusing it with her understanding of humanity.
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82 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Pamela A. Poddany VINE VOICE on January 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )

Alice Hoffman once again mixes the mystical and logical and bakes us a wonderful array of stories that are sure to please.

THE RED GARDEN consists of a series of short stories all inter-woven and blending together to create one of the best books Hoffman has ever written. As the stories unfold, we first meet one Hallie Brady and a handful of other settlers who are stranded during inclement weather. They survive the hardships of their first winter together and create a new town called Bearsville. This first story or chapter, THE BEAR'S HOUSE, starts in the year 1750, with the final story, KING OF THE BEES, taking place currently.

Hoffman introduces us to a number of engaging characters who are all somehow related to someone in this small Massachusetts town. Each character tells their story and we are constantly meeting interesting, wonderful, and magical people. The same characters pop up here and there throughout the entire book. Each story is different and enchanting, moving through time and history, taking the reader on an awesome journey.

History and fiction blend well together in this book; we are walked through the late 1700's, the Civil War, the Depression, love, family life, new people in town, despair, marriages, affairs, ghosts, hardships, the struggles and victories of every day life, etc; even Johnny Appleseed makes an appearance.

The reference to the red garden -- which seems to bind together this little town -- is a garden where everything grows red -- green beans, lilac bushes, cucumbers, and so on. Is this a magical piece of property?

I literally flew through the pages of this book. Hoffman has always been a favorite author of mine although her past few books were a bit of a disappointment.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Sheri in Reho TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you're all about realism and everything making sense, this is probably not the book for you; however, if you're able to surrender to magical storytelling and a more fairy tale approach, I highly recommend it.

Hoffman begins her series of stories about town of Blackwell, Massachusetts, with the town's original settlers in 1750. Most prominent among them is a true frontier woman--Hallie Brady. Hallie, you see, saves the original settlers from starvation during their first winter, when the menfolk weren't quite up to the task! It is in this first story that the long-running theme of bears and the red garden begins.

The book's title refers to the garden from which it is said only red things grow. There is a history to this garden, of course; a sad one which involves both Hallie and bears...or rather one particular bear whom she befriended that first hard winter. Through hundreds of years and generations descending from those first settlers, Hoffman tells the story of this area, these people and this garden. I think my favorite story is from 1956, called The Monster of Blackwell. A very Beauty and the Beast kind of story--sad but also tender and beautiful.

The writing here is splendid for the most part, though I found the book's last two stories a terrible disappointment--an ending not befitting this lovely book in my opinion. Hoffman does a superb job in describing the environs. I could see it in my mind as I read--always my favorite kind of storytelling. Her way with words is just joyous to read. A few excerpts:

"There were little frogs in the puddles and white butterflies
with green specks on paper-thin wings circling the purple
thistle. The sun was like honey, falling in splashes.
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76 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Biblioholic Beth TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Have you ever been to a large family gathering, particularly with a family not your own? Where everyone you meet requires you to stop and search your brain to remember the connections between this person and that one, and who is on which side of the family tree? Alice Hoffman's "The Red Garden" is the same way - requiring the reader to try and remember the distant family connections between the characters that crop in in each chapter. The book reads more like a series of short stories than a novel - each has a distinct beginning and ending and each advances time a little further. And each character is somehow related to one that showed up previously, though you may or may not get much of an explanation.

While the book description talks about a "mysterious garden" that is the "center of everyone's life", I found that the town and the people within it seemed to be more the focal point. In fact, the garden is not mentioned much and really only seems to take center stage in a couple of the stories. Otherwise, while there were some connecting elements, it also felt like I was missing something in the reading.

As I have never read any of Hoffman's books before, I can't say with any degree of knowledge whether this is common in her books or whether her regular readers would enjoy this. What I can say is that I feel a bit let down by the experience. The writing itself was beautiful, and I enjoyed the glimpse into the lessons learned and lives moved during the stories, but I felt like I lost some momentum each time I tried to remember whose daughter/son/brother/sister the current main character was. Probably not a book I will ever revisit.
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