From Publishers Weekly
Magic is once again knitted into the fabric of a Hoffman novel, this one revolving around a New England family living with the legacy of witchcraft. In colonial Unity, Mass., Rebecca Sparrow was tried as a witch and drowned because of her physical inability to feel pain. Her present-day descendants possess extraordinary gifts. Elinor, the dying matriarch of the Sparrow family, has the ability to discern liars. Her estranged daughter, Jenny Avery, can divine other people's dreams. And Jenny's 13-year-old daughter, Stella, knows how and when people will die. Jenny is recently divorced from Will Avery, a charming but erratic and hard-drinking music teacher; she and Stella live in Boston, where Stella is a charity case at the exclusive Rabbit School for girls. Brainy and unpopular, Stella chafes at her mother's invasive omniscience while trying to make sense of her own powers. When Stella asks her father, Will, to try to prevent a death, he ends up becoming a murder suspect, and her mother sends her to live with Elinor at Cake House, her home in Unity, until the scandal dies down. Jenny and Will soon join her, as does Will's brother, Matt, a reclusive scholar, and Stella's best friend, the audacious, jaded Juliet Aronson. Matt is studying the life of Rebecca Sparrow, and his research reveals strange echoes of Rebecca's story in the lives of her descendants. Subplots are numerous: Brock Stewart, Elinor's doctor, has been secretly in love with Elinor for years; his teenage grandson, Hap, meets the Sparrows and develops a crush on Juliet; and Will becomes close with Liza, an old high school classmate of Jenny's. The plot is crowded, and readers will wish for more time with each of the full-bodied, wholly absorbing characters, but few will complain: Hoffman's storytelling is as spellbinding as ever.
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Hoffman has perfected her very own entrancing style of magic realism and mystical romance anchored to the moody, history-laden Massachusetts countryside. In an astonishing run of 16 dazzling novels of family strife, crimes of passion, and the sort of love that induces a person to walk through fire, plunge to the bottom of a cold, dark lake, or promise anything to the gods, Hoffman has gently lifted the veil between the ordinary and the supernatural and made of human desire a force of nature. In this bewitching tale, three living generations of Sparrow women confront their strange and challenging heritage. It all begins in 1697 when a strange girl who can't feel physical pain walks out of the woods surrounding the tiny settlement of Unity, and unnerves the witch-fearing townsfolk. Each of her descendents, all female and all born in the volatile month of March, possesses a similarly troublesome gift. Elinor can recognize a liar at 100 paces, although her husband still betrays her. Jenny, her daughter, dreams other people's dreams. And her daughter, Stella, can see people's deaths, a burden that at first wreaks havoc when her feckless father is accused of a murder she foresees but later becomes a boon. Hoffman's newest cast of characters is unfailingly magnetic, from her eye-rolling teenagers to her wryly in-love seniors to her suddenly aflame fortysomethings, and the story she tells is as lush as it is suspenseful, as rich in earthy and sensuous detail as it is sweet and hopeful. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved