The Red Garden is about the town of Blackwell, Massachusetts. It starts with the first settlers in the area, way back in 1750, with the founder, a young woman named Hallie Brady. She had come from England, married a ne'er do well, and found herself in the middle of nowhere with a few others families with winter coming on and no shelter. Hallie never gave up, and found some unusual ways to keep everyone alive until spring. Hallie herself became a legend, along with a bear that became part of her life.
As the novel progresses, each chapter is about someone who lives in Blackwell. As the years go by, the people and their lives remain the same, yet the history of the town grows more mysterious. Time and memories bend facts and superstitions. The red garden is part of the land where Hallie's original home still stands. Everything that is planted there turns red--beans, lilacs, lettuce, you name it. No one knows why, and you kinda forget what's been put there until close to the end, with the story of Louise Partridge in 1986. I know I totally forgot, and it was like a light bulb blinking on as I read her tale of the red garden. It brings you full circle.
What I like about this novel was the anchor of the town. Over the centuries, the people kept struggling with life, love, and the feeling of being unable to leave Blackwell. Something about this town, and their deep ties to it, keeps the same families there through the years. Alice Hoffman did something similar with Blackbird House --a story about one house and it's many occupants. Blackwell is similar in this way, but much bigger.
Bears, red flowers, ghosts of little girls, and the ever present Eel River provide the backbone to this novel. It's classic Alice Hoffman--magical, poignant, quiet, and filled with a yearning for something that's just out of reach.
This novel will be published in January, 2010 in hardcover and in e-book format. Loved it!