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The Probable Future (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – June 1, 2004
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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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Amid colorful imagery and descriptive characters, Hoffman offers the message that what is believed may not always be what is true, and the power of love for family transcends all else.
Their unique gifts and long history in the town of Unity make the Sparrow women both a source of pride as well as the subject of rumor and assumptions. Desperate to escape the burden of her heritage and an un-loving mother, Jenny runs away with Will Avery an attractive young man who could charm anyone, with the exception of Elinor Sparrow who knew him to be a liar and a cheat the second she laid eyes upon him.
Jenny sacrifices her education in order to ensure that Will receives his, only to have Will squander his opportunity at Harvard University, which pretty much sets up a cycle which the couple repeats in various forms through the years. Eventually, Jenny and Will have a daughter. It is a difficult birth, but both the child and the mother survive. Jenny swears that her daughter will never learn of her heritage, and strives to be the kind of mother that she herself never had. Jenny's efforts serve only to drive her daughter further away. Their relationship is further strained by the fact that Jenny has left Will, and he has moved out, since Stella practically worships her father.
Stella's 13th birthday coincides with the onset of menstruation, and she begins to have graphic visions indicating a person's manner of death. She sees a large fish trapped in her math teacher's throat, a pea sized sphere in the brain of a cab driver, etc... Not understanding what she is seeing, Stella confides in the only person she feels that she can trust, her father.
When Stella predicts the murder of a woman in the restaurant he takes her to celebrate her birthday Stella urges Will to warn her of impending death. When the woman fails to take the vision seriously, Stella forces her father to do more in order to prevent the death. Will goes to the police to make a report, but the police don't take him seriously either. When the murder occurs, Will becomes the prime suspect and the media descend on him and his family to get the story.
Jenny is forced to send her daughter to live with her grandmother in her ancestral home. When Jenny loses her job due to the scandal, she returns to her home as well to make a new start. With three generations of Sparrow women under one roof and the threat of the real murderer lurking in the darkness the women are forced to deal with their issues, lost loves, and the powers that they cannot deny.
I really enjoyed The Probable Future, I felt that it could very well be the story of distant cousins of the Owens women in Hoffman's Practical Magic as the two novels bear a few striking similarities. Both stories concern the most recent in a long line of magical women, a very unique house, and the struggle to find and accept love.
Although the word witch appears only once in the whole book, there are hints that the women are witches, or have some knowledge of witchcraft. Rebecca Sparrow wanders out of the woods with only a bell, a compass, and wearing a silver star around her neck. Elinor Sparrow is accused of cursing people by sticking an onion with black headed pins, or driving chicken feathers through a knotted length of thread.
While the murder of a woman the author didn't expend the effort to name moves the story along, the central plot of this book is the dynamic of the mother/daughter relationship. The Probable Future teaches us that the secret to a successful relationship is like one of the recipes in Rebecca Sparrow's ancient cookbook. All the ingredients are there, we just have to add them in the right proportion. It takes a little sour to balance the sweet, a little heat can bring out flavor, but too much can burn the stew and leave a bitter taste in your mouth, and a dish left out in the cold overnight will often spoil......