Long-time favorite Alice Hoffman has a new book out today. Like The Probable Future (Doubleday, 2003) and Blackbird House (Doubleday, 2004), The Red Garden is a group of interconnected stories, this time set in rural Massachusetts from colonial times to the present.
Many teens have already discovered Alice Hoffman through her YA titles, Green Angel (Scholastic, 2003) and Green Witch (Scholastic, 2010), and Incantation (Little, Brown, 2006). The Red Garden is not a bad place to begin, and may well start a run on her older adult titles from Practical Magic (Putnam, 1995) to Here on Earth (Putnam, 1997). The Probable Future might be the most popular, about sisters who develop magical gifts when they turn 13.
HOFFMAN, Alice. The Red Garden. 288p. Crown. 2011. Tr $25. ISBN 978-0-307-39387-6. LC number unavailable.
Adult/High School–High in the Berkshire Mountains, a group of 18th-century settlers puts down tentative roots and forms a community that comes to be called Blackwell, Massachusetts. The humans are far outnumbered by bears on land and eels in the river, and yet they persevere through one brutal winter after another. One of the original settlers, Hallie Brady, develops a deep bond with a bear cub that continues to visit her even as it grows to adulthood. During one such visit, an alarmed neighbor misunderstands its intentions and shoots it. The patch of soil where the bear dies turns a “peculiar red,” a mystery that baffles Hallie’s descendents for the next two centuries. The stories of these descendents flow in subsequent chapters as easily as an eel through water. Strangers come to town and leave behind seeds of folklore: John Chapman plants a tree; a gypsy man leaves his collie; a girl in blue haunts the riverside. Each chapter unveils a new generation, reshaping the memories of the past into new myths for the future. Many of the narrators are teens with the same yearnings and conflicting emotions teens experience today. Should they follow their heartfelt instincts or keep them hidden from the world? Readers who love Alice Hoffman’s young adult novels will have no problem slipping into the spell of The Red Garden, and fans of linked short stories will appreciate the intricate patterns woven by the generations of Blackwell storytellers.–Diane Colson, New Port Richey Library, FL