“The Red Garden explores the luminous and haunting world of Blackwell, Massachusetts, capturing the unexpected turns in its history and in our own lives. Beginning with the town’s founder, a brave young woman from England who has no fear of blizzards or of bears, Hoffman seamlessly weaves together the stories of extraordinary characters, among them a wounded Civil War soldier who is saved by a passionate neighbor, a poet who falls in love with a blind man, and a mysterious traveler who comes to town in the year that summer never arrives.”
-Synopsis from back cover
I loved this collection. Alice Hoffman is incredibly skilled at constructing magical, introspective, everlasting stories. These stories are all interconnected, so even though you don’t have to read them in order, if you do, you’ll find that characters reappear at different points in their lives as the timeline progress.
My favorites were “The Fisherman’s Wife,” “Sin,” and “The Red Garden” but they were all wonderful captivating tales. A couple in particular, such as “Owl and Mouse” had me guessing about the real people the characters were based on; in this case I was correct that the main character was based on Emily Dickinson. There is also a story inspired by Johnny Appleseed.
While this book was on my reading list for a while, I chose to read it in March because it was Alice Hoffman’s own book club selection. She then did a short Q&A live on her Instagram which I really enjoyed watching.
She discussed aspects of the book which gave a lot of insight into each of the stories. For example, despite the book being so heavily focused on gardens and plants, she herself is not a gardener. I would have never guessed that based on how detailed her writing is. It is such a treat to hear authors discuss their work and she is perhaps the one I am most interested in learning more about after every read.
I plan to finish the Practical Magic series next, and look forward to her newest book Vanishing Hour coming out in August.