The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman
Hoffman brings us 200 years in the history of Blackwell, a small town in rural Massachusetts, in her insightful latest. The story opens with the arrival of the first settlers, among them a pragmatic English woman, Hallie, and her profligate, braggart husband, William. Hallie makes an immediate and intense connection to the wilderness, and the tragic severing of that connection results in the creation of the redgarden, a small, sorrowful plot of land that takes on an air of the sacred. The novel moves forward in linked stories, each building on (but not following from) the previous and focusing on a wide range of characters, including placid bears, a band of nomadic horse traders, a woman who finds a new beginning in Blackwell, and the ghost of a young girl drowned in the river who stays in the town’s consciousness long after her name has been forgotten. The result is a certain ethereal detachment as Hoffman’s deft magical realism ties one woman’s story to the next even when they themselves are not aware of the connection.
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
Isabella, Mary, and Lauren are quickly realizing that the postcollege years aren’t a parade of guaranteed, life-altering changes. Invited to a dizzying array of bachelorette parties, weddings, and showers both baby and bridal, the three get the sense that the adult world only applies to their acquaintances. After seeing each other through disastrous blind dates, unfulfilling career choices, and tense family holidays, they comfort themselves with the small victories of singledom. GirlsinWhiteDresses is genuinely empathic, and Close brings a tender sense of humor to each of the episodic chapters. With a voice similar to those of Melissa Banks and Cindy Guidry, Close’s novel expresses the perfect blend of midtwenties angst, collegiate nostalgia, and plentiful laughter. With different chapters narrated by each protagonist and some of their close friends, the novel is richly satisfying.
Once in a Blue Moon by Eileen Goudge
As children, sisters Lindsay and Kerri Ann are shunted into the foster care system after their mother is arrested. charming newest. Lindsay is fortunate enough to be adopted by a loving family, while younger Kerri Ann bounces from family to family, eventually losing custody of her own daughter. Thirty years after they last saw each other, Kerri Ann shows up on Lindsay’s doorstep in a last ditch effort to save herself. Lindsay, of course, has troubles of her own, and her nearly unrecognizable sister turning up is the last thing she needs. A touching story with wide appeal, Goudge’s novel is a sharp example of dysfunctional family fiction.