I was remarking to Bigbad that had I picked up a book of magical realism ten or so years ago, I probably would have despised it. But now, I adore it. Makes me wonder what genres I'll learn to like as I get into my golden years.
Alice Hoffman is linked to magical realism in a big way, but Red Garden is the first of her works I've read. It should be stated first that Red Garden is more of short stories, eh, not even short stories, more resembling linked vignettes that take place in Blackwell, Massachusetts. They are in sequential order and begin with the town's founding in 1750 and travel to more current day.
There are several motifs that run throughout the vignettes: bears, blood, strangers, loss of a parent, loss of a child, a sense of abandonment. To be honest, not a single chapter is uplifting. Even the more pleasant ones involve some brutal acts of violence. Once I came to the realization that each story would involve some horrendous act, I just came to expect it and was less shocked and more annoyed. Why must every book now involve rape or murder or senseless death?
I became accustomed to the notion that Hoffman was not going to give me a happy ending. This would be a book of tragic resilience. If I were to read it, I'd have to read of the suffering-- not of the celebrations of these citizens.
And read, I did. Hoffman writes with such ease. I would compare her to a watercolor artist. She had such a light stroke. No paragraphs, no sentences were ever too much. She doesn't tell the scene but shows it. The only disappointment though with Red Garden is I did not wish to stand inside her story and relish it.
I liked that the later stories (more recent in time) were more connected. I could follow the characters development across stories more easily. In the end, I was really disappointed that Hoffman hadn't written more stories from the earlier town days. I suspect just a bit that she wrote the earlier tales to have a foundation for folk tales whose myth gets altered and changed with each generation. Interesting concept, but I craved more.
I would very much like to read some of her other works. I'd love to read a novel that has magical realism, a touch of whimsy in a perfectly drawn world. I'll be making sure it's not tragic resilience without any humor though.