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The Probable Future

November 17, 2008

The Probable Future (Ballantine Reader's Circle)Many small towns in America have a family or person which becomes a kind of legend in the community. Growing up in a rural town in Northern New Jersey, we had a man named Elwood. He lived in the woods, living off the land, with his girlfriend Mountain May. Elwood would always wear his trademark army fatigue hat, make faces at the school bus as we rolled by and hung around town. Other than some bad personal hygene issues, Elwood himself was harmless. Mountain May is long gone, but Elwood now lives in a small house along the main street in the town. This legend is still around town.

In the fictional town of  Unity, Massachusetts the Sparrow family lives in infamy. Three hundred years ago, a small child walked out of the woods and is taken in by a local washer-woman. This child, Rebecca, has a special gift. She cannot feel pain. Each girl to be born from the bloodline of Rebecca has two things in common. First, they are all born in the month of March. Secondly, they all receive a “gift” on their thirteenth birthday. For Stella Sparrow Avery, a girl born in March three hundred years after Rebecca walked the earth, her gift is being able to see how people will die.

Shortly after Stella’s parents get a divorce, Stella’s gift gets her father into trouble. Stella soon finds herself in the town of Unity, where her parents grew up, and living with her grandmother Elinor, who can literally smell a lie. Elinor has been estranged from her own daughter Jenny, Stella’s mother, but now has to come face to face with Jenny after many years apart.

The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman is an intricately woven story of small town living, family ties, love,  loss and the passage of time. The author writes beautifully and the story of the Sparrow family is filled with a kind of magical realism which flows nicely throughout the book. The backstory of Rebecca, which binds the novel together, is an interesting one which helps to give the story a bit of mystery. Having said that, this was probably not the most memorable book I’ve ever read, but I enjoyed it none-the-less and would pick up another book by Hoffman in the future.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2008 9:50 pm

    I enjoy Alice Hoffman’s work, so I was sorry to see this one was a disappointment.

  2. November 17, 2008 10:07 pm

    I liked this one but my favorite Hoffman book thus far is Blackbird House, which is a collection of loosely inter-related stories. A couple of hers I haven’t liked at all – Practical Magic and The Ice Queen (which I didn’t even bother to finish).

  3. November 17, 2008 11:16 pm

    This has been on my TBR list for quite a while. I need to get my hands on it one of these days. Thanks for the review.

  4. November 18, 2008 11:53 am

    I really liked this when I read it – you should try The River King, it’s also good.

  5. November 18, 2008 11:55 am

    First time I’ve heard of this one. It sounds interesting. I don’t think I have ever read one of her novels.

  6. November 18, 2008 1:08 pm

    I really enjoyed this book. It was my first Alice Hoffman book and I was ready to put her on my list of favorite authors immediately after. It was so beautifully written. I’ve heard quite often that this isn’t one of her better books and so I have a lot to look forward to as I read more of her books.

    I didn’t like Practical Magic quite as much–but that isn’t saying much since I liked that one a lot too. 🙂

  7. November 18, 2008 2:59 pm

    It sounds like a lovely read:)Hugs Darcy

  8. November 18, 2008 5:44 pm

    I love Alice Hoffman. You should read The River King. It’s excellent.

  9. November 19, 2008 10:06 am


  10. November 19, 2008 1:48 pm

    I’ve heard mixed reviews about this one, but your review makes me want to give it a try.

  11. November 20, 2008 11:52 pm

    I tend to really enjoy Hoffman, and I can’t honestly say why I’ve never picked this one up! The premise sounds intriguing.

  12. November 21, 2008 5:49 pm

    I’ve heard of this one, but never read a review till now. The premise sounds wonderful. I’m sorry it was a disappointment. I’ve only read one book by Hoffman, but I loved her quirky style.

  13. December 1, 2008 8:28 am

    I loved this book. I don’t live in Maine, so the descriptions of Unity and the countryside were really beautiful to me. I also loved the slow, dreamy pace of the novel.

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