From Goodreads: 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.
From the town’s founder, a brave young woman from England who has no fear of blizzards or bears, to the young man who runs away to New York City, the characters in The Red Garden are extraordinary and vivid: a young wounded Civil War soldier who is saved by a neighbor, a woman who meets a fiercely human historical character, a poet who falls in love with a blind man, a mysterious traveler who comes to town in the year when summer never arrives. At the center of everyone’s life is a garden where only red plants can grow, and where the truth can be found by those who dare to look. The Red Garden is as unforgettable as it is moving.
What I liked about this book is it tells the story of a place. For over 300 years we’re told the stories of the Blackwell, Mass. Almost a collection of short stories connect by history. The same family names and town folk lore appear again and again in the stories. It’s fascinating to me, the small moments in history of someplace that has existed for so long.
I had a problem remembering some of the names and connecting them to their descendants from one chapter to the next but I was able to flip back and refresh my memory. Other than that I really did enjoy this. There are 14 stories in all and I enjoyed some more than others. The Principals of Devotion was particularly good and both The Rad Garden and King of the Bees tied up the story of the town very well. There were some clever references to historical figures passing through Blackwell. Johnny Appleseed makes an appearance in Eight Nights of Love and Emily Dickenson shows up in Owl and Mouse. My favorite of the stories was The Monster of Blackwell, it is very touching and sad.
All the stories seem a little less upbeat as Hoffman’s previous stories. Actually the last 2 or 3 of Hoffman’s books I’ve read seem to be missing some of the magic her earlier works have had. There still very good books but they definitely are a bit of a downer. I’m still a big Alice Hoffman fan I just miss a little of the magic of her earlier works.