A luminous and haunting world unfolds in The Red Garden, revealing the historic moments of small town life in Blackwell, Massachusetts (previously named Bearsville), from its beginnings in the 1700s to a time near the end of the Twentieth Century.

A constant theme in the story centers around the aptly named garden with red soil, where only red plants grow, and where secrets are buried beneath the soil. Townsfolk have said that “where blood has fallen, the ground aches but the fruit is sweet….”

The garden is like a central character, along with many of the descendants of the founding families, Hallie and William Brady and the Partridges.

The story is narrated through the years, showcasing various descendants, as well as new folks who have made their home there. There is a Founders Day Festival each year, and the town’s folklore is woven into the production. Each time period spotlights a particular character who then becomes central. And when the era moves forward, the previous tales are loosely connected like a thread that has tentatively woven itself into the spirit of the town.

Events like the child who drowned at six, but has been seen around the river in a blue dress. Or the dog that would not leave the gravesite of his mistress until he died there. Then there is the “monster” in the woods, with whom one resident developed a very special and secret relationship. But then something tragic happened….and the monster disappeared.

Many of the mysterious and sometimes magical events signify how special the town is…but in the end, who can say for sure what is real and what is the imagining of those who choose to believe?

The first chapter did not fully engage me, but then I became captivated by each new character featured in the ensuing chapters. As the connections seemingly threaded their way through the ages, a unique continuity seemed to suggest that the magical and mystical might not be so imaginary after all.

A delightful and memorable read that I will think about often. I would have enjoyed learning more about the characters that seemingly disappeared after their featured chapters. Some of them reappeared in later chapters, without any explanations about the intervening years, while others simply vanished. There was something illusory about how these stories played out. 4.5 stars.


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