In Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden, Hallie Brady arrives in the wilderness near Hightop Mountain in 1750. Nobody white had settled this part of Massachusetts before, and the native people who camped nearby vowed that no man would find happiness west of the mountain. Teenaged, English-born Hallie comes with her not-good-for-much husband and a couple of other families he has duped into following him in circles for days before winding up in the shadow of the mountain just as the November snows are settling in.
The tiny settlement holds on mostly due to Hallie’s grit, but as the years roll past and new generations are born, the sweet wildness of the place becomes a draw for travelers and seekers, too. An apple orchard and more bloom because visionary John Chapman came through as the spring came upon the land. The nearby Eel River, teeming with the sharp-teethed fish, is beautiful, practical, and sometimes deadly. Renewed by their environment and each other, the citizens of Bear Town, now called Blackwell, find magic and inspiration at unexpected and important moments.
The Red Garden is a series of many short stories that are tied together through the town’s heritage, stretching back to its colonial past. Indeed, at the center of Blackwell lies Hallie Brady’s house, ancient of days and with the garden she first worked. The town’s survival depended on Hallie in those days, and its continued existence in the face of war and famine surely owe something to the magic of her garden where everything planted grows red as blood, just like the soil.
Alice Hoffman delivers a solid page-turner where regret, love, and the overwhelming joy of being alive are explored generation after generation.