Wednesday, December 29, 2010

THE RED GARDEN by Alice Hoffman

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 of Hightop Mountain and struggled to survive.  Were it not for young Hallie Brady, they wouldn't have made it.  Hallie faces her own series of tragedies and the garden she builds behind her home is a testament to those losses.  Everything planted in the garden turns red. The garden makes an appearance in most if not all of the tales in the book.

I admit that I got swept up in these stories.  It is a truly wonderful to peek into the lives of the inhabitants of this town over so many years. Each chapter offers a brief tale in a specific moment in time and then moves forward.  After encountering an individual in one story, you may later find the child or grandchild or great-grandchild of that individual in another story. Everyone is interconnected and affected by Blackwell. My one complaint is that just when I found myself caught up in a tale, it would end.  You do not get to find out what happens to each individual.  You only get a brief moment in time.  I wish Hoffman had offered these stories in an 800-page book like Santmyers' "...AND LADIES OF THE CLUB" so that we could follow each thread to its end. One of the most fascinating mysteries in the book is never resolved!!!  Each story offers a tantalizing peek into the lives of these people but nothing more.  Hoffman does capture these linked and interwoven lives skillfully, however.

BOTTOM LINE:  Highly recommended.  Hoffman is a great storyteller.  I found myself frustrated, however, from wanting more.  It seemed as if there was so much more to tell.

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