Mini Book Review: The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman

My Rating: 4/5

The Blurb: Alice Hoffman’s most magical novel to date—three generations of extraordinary women are driven to unite in crisis and discover the rewards of reconciliation and love.

Women of the Sparrow family have unusual gifts. Elinor can detect falsehood. Her daughter, Jenny, can see people’s dreams when they sleep. Granddaughter Stella has a mental window on the future—a future that she might not want to see.

In The Probable Future this vivid and intriguing cast of characters confronts a haunting past—and a very current murder—against the evocative backdrop of small-town New England. By turns chilling and enchanting, The Probable Future chronicles the Sparrows’s legacy as young Stella struggles to cope with her disturbing clairvoyance. Her potential to ruin or redeem becomes unbearable when one of her premonitions puts her father in jail, wrongly accused of homicide. Yet this ordeal also leads Stella to the grandmother she was forbidden to meet and to a historic family home full of talismans from her ancestors.

My Review: A captivating tale of family, love, understanding and redemption; while not without it’s problems; The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman was a magical read.

Upon their 13th birthday, the women of the Sparrow family, discover that they possess a mystical gift. For many of the Sparrow women, these ‘gifts’ are both a burden and a catalyst for transformation and forgiveness. Stella, the 13th generation of Sparrow women, discovers that she has the unique ability to see how people will die; her mother, Jenny, is able to see the dreams of others and her grandmother, Elinor, can detect liars. These ‘gifts’ impact their lives in a myriad of ways; sparking them to make the poor judgements and rash decisions that changed the trajectory of their lives and ultimately forcing them back together.

Things I liked:

  • The setting – starting out in Cambridge, Massachusetts and quickly moving to a small rural town named Unity; steeped in the rich history of the extraordinary Sparrow women; who even though they were feared, demonstrated a love for their community through many acts of service.
  • The detailed descriptions and feelings surrounding ‘The Cake House’ – the Sparrow family’s unique home; built as a hodge podge of add-ons until it resembles a wedding cake – the house and garden becoming an essential character of the book. Hoffman’s writing flows so poetically; creating such vivid imagery and powerful emotions with regards to the house and the people who reside there.
  • The compelling characters and complex relationships between 13 year old Stella, her mother, grandmother and a variety of other smaller but no less important characters.
  • The portrayal of teen angst and rebellion – because anyone who has a teenage daughter fully understands the eye-rolling, sighing and door slamming that comes with being 13. The conflict that stems from daughters asserting their independence; the subsequent pulling back from their mothers and the eventual resolution when both parties recognise each other as women, as human beings, not just mother and daughter.
  • The element of romance; of vulnerability and letting people in; of deep and everlasting friendship and love….oh Matt Avery…how lovely is that man? And Brock….another gentle, kind-hearted soul.
  • The sensitive portrayal of loss, illness and death and of new beginnings.

Things I didn’t like:

  • Although the ‘murder mystery’ involving Stella and her father was the reason for bringing the three women back together; it felt completely secondary to the story. An after-thought that could easily have been skipped; glossed over as it was until the end; and overshadowed by the relationships/history of the Sparrow women.
  • By the end of the novel, there were some sentiments and recurring phrases that were feeling strained; a bit too repetitive; and detracting from the overall flow of the story.

Summary: All that said, this was an easy 4 stars for me and a novel I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a bit of magical realism, history and family dynamics.