In just under 300 pages, Alice Hoffman takes the reader on a journey through the history of a small town in Massachusetts, Bearsville, aka Blackwood, aka Blackwell, which was settled quite by accident. Four families, traveling with William Grady and his wife, Hillie, become lost in a snowstorm and flounder. Hillie, the stronger and more industrious of the two is ultimately the one responsible for successfully settling there and for their survival. This small town of four families, Mott, Partridge, Starr, and Grady, soon grows to ten, changes its name, prospers and grows still further. Some other names that appear are Jacob, Kelly, Flynn, and Chapman. New families arrive, marriages, births, and deaths ensue. We follow their thread from the 1700’s to the Civil War to the Depression and another war, right up until and into the 21st century.Because the story felt more like a collection of short stories, it wasn’t always cohesive. While interesting, it was often confusing, especially with an audio book since the listener can’t easily review what has just been read. Sometimes the characters jumbled together and names got mislaid in my memory. So many characters were highlighted in the 14 chapters, it was sometimes hard to find the thread connecting them, but there definitely was a thread. A name would occur early on and then disappear only to suddenly recur in a later chapter. Often, it was hard to remember the trail and hold onto the continuity. It was more like there was suddenly an aha moment when everything would click and come together.Many themes returned throughout the stories: the color red as in blood, apples, red vegetables, red fruit, red soil, red flowers; trees, as in the tree of life; babies born out of wedlock. There were bones, runaways, poets, bears, dogs and other creatures, blindness, magic and the supernatural, gardens with secrets. It was almost as if these qualities were part of some cosmic DNA. There were chance meetings that turned into kismet for some of the characters and there were many moments of tragedy and sadness followed by a story of survival, all of which together were able to knit all of the families that originally settled into a cohesive whole.There were many beautifully told stories of love and devotion, loss and sadness. The times were hard and courage and perseverance were necessary qualities for survival and success. Each of the families moved through the generations in an almost karma-like fashion, with the character’s descendants morphing and changing, growing into themselves from generation to generation.With the passage of time, the garden goes through various stages of being planted and productive or lying fallow, in much the same way as the character’s lives progress, depending on the family living near or in the original Brady house at a particular time, but the garden is definitely something that links them all.After more than two centuries, the descendants of a Mott and a Grady, come full circle and return to their small town beginnings, once again making the garden a sacred place and making the book feel as if it is almost beginning again.Hoffman writes with a spare prose that is more expressive than books with more than twice the number of pages.