Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Book Review: "The Red Garden" by Alice Hoffman
Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors because she has the amazing ability to bring a sense of dreamy magicality to nearly all of her books. In The Red Garden, a collection of connected short stories that take place over 300 years in the small town of Blackwell, Massachusetts, that magic is at times overt and at times beautifully subtle.
The protagonists of Hoffman's stories are often average people who suddenly find themselves in life-changing circumstances. Stories are spun in chronological order, with the protagonist of one story being somehow connected to a character mentioned in a previous story. (I like that, because all too often in stories you wonder what happens to the characters once the story endsdid they fall in love, what path did they choose, etc.) Nearly every story has love at its core, whether it's love for nature, another person, a child, the love a dog has for its owner, etc., and just like life, that love is sometimes unrequited. Some of the stories require you to use your imagination and suspend your disbelief a little bit, but that isn't too jarring.
On the whole, I really enjoyed this book. As with any story collection, some of the stories are stronger than others, and I particularly felt that at times a few of the stories dragged a bit. Even though some are relatively short, these are dense stories that really cause you to think and feel along with the characters. No one does obsessive love (sometimes with a little magic thrown in) as well as Hoffmansee her Here on Earth for proof of thatso I loved those stories best. If you've never read anything by Alice Hoffman, this is a good place to start; if you have, she certainly doesn't disappoint! Beautifully written.