The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

The book has 14 chapters or stories that stand on their own. When woven together they form a tapestry of 300 years of life in the small town of Blackwell, Massachusetts.  The stories start in 1750 when a group of inexperienced travellers settle there.  A young woman from England is among them who with courage and insight, and a bear, keeps them alive during the hard first winter in Blackwell.  The history ends in the present with a young man, living  in New York, returning to Blackwell to bury his father.  His trip home teaches him the importance of family and roots.

Between these two chapters are the stories of those who have shaped the town and make up the legends and tales that surround it.  There is the man travelling west who stops and plants an apple tree that one year will bloom in the dead of winter.  Amy is a little girl who drowns in the river and is sometimes seen on the riverbank by townsfolk throughout the years;  and a tale is told of the fisherman’s mysterious wife;  and of bones found in a garden.

All of the stories revolve around the river and the Red Garden. It is in the garden that some of the souls of Blackwell find their truth and solace.  Each chapter has mystery and revelation and deep truth beautifully and thoughtfully written.   If you read carefully, perhaps a story or two will speak to you, in the present, through the past of Blackwell, Massachusetts.

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