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The Probable Future: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – June 1, 2004
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“Delicious . . . Hoffman is an unapologetic optimist, and optimism is in short supply these days. It feels like a vacation to curl up with [The Probable Future].”—The New York Times Book Review
“Instantly alluring . . . A mysterious, modern-day fairy tale . . . Hoffman is an amazingly talented writer with a beautiful sense of sentence construction, an intriguing imagination, and the ability to create compelling, complex characters that readers care about.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Hoffman’s ethereal tale of a family of women with supernatural gifts is a magical escape, grounded in the complex relationships between mothers and daughters.”—Marie Claire
“Hoffman knows how to put magic into her novels, sometimes as an element of the plot; always in the quality of her writing.”—The Hartford Courant
“The Probable Future dazzles with its bristling examination of life’s trying tests of the women of the Sparrow family. The electrifying result is an under-the-microscope look at love, friendship, and the ties that blind and bind.”—The Seattle Times
“[A] bewitching story of gifted women unlucky at love . . . Hoffman is now expert at sketching the New England landscape in the past and future, and the equally chilly psychological landscape of extraordinary women trapped in an ordinary word. . . . She shows a deft hand at tracing the movement from child to adult, showing an unusual ability to create sympathetic characters of all ages.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Hoffman has perfected her very own entrancing style of magical realism and mystical romance anchored to the moody, history-laden Massachusetts countryside. . . . 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.”—Booklist
“Hoffman is at her best, chronicling in meticulous and beautiful detail the ways the three Sparrow women are transformed . . . The characters are richly drawn, each idiosyncratically real and yet each just a bit of a sorceress.”—Book magazine (four stars)
“Full-bodied, wholly absorbing characters . . . Hoffman’s storytelling is as spellbinding as ever.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Spellbinding . . . Of all the magical realists writing today, she may have the best sense of balance.”—Portland Oregonian
“Filled with vivid . . . characters and cinematic descriptions of New England landscapes, this book will be a hit.”—Library Journal
“[A] lyrical, magic-infused work . . . Another witches’ brew of ethereal characters [and] lush settings.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
From the Inside Flap
- Publisher : Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (June 1, 2004)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0345455916
- ISBN-13 : 978-0345455918
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #111,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The writing grabbed me in the first sentence and wouldn't let go through the entirety of the lengthy sample. That was all it took. I uploaded to my Kindle and could NOT put it down till I was finished. I will recommend it to friends. This is all due to the lyrical writing which kept singing in my head . . . despite the fact that this is definitely a Book Club type book and the ending brought reform to a character (Will Avery if you are looking further) in a way that was utterly unrealistic and even annoying. And I'm not talking about the magical realism - which was actually beautifully done and believable.
I can ignore that. I will ignore it. Just please, please don't send me to a Book Club to discuss symbolism or intergenerational communication or deep "meanings." And if you feel the way I do about such things, don't worry. You'll still love the book.
PS: Book Club lovers: save yourself the trouble of commenting. I know you're all nice, sincere people who keep reading alive. Good for you. Feel free to discuss the haters at your next meeting. I promise my feelings won't be hurt.
Such an interesting story! I'm finding that I truly enjoy anything written by Alice Hoffman. I foresee many more of her books being added to my library over the years! :) Good stuff!
THE PROBABLE FUTURE is one that has "spoken" to me for some time. While it was published over ten years ago, I had never read it till now. It clogged my "wish list" and "to be read" pile for awhile. Why I hadn't started sooner, I don't know. Sometimes, like the words we read, the ones we read need to be carefully cultivated. I picked it up and fell into her lyrical world of fictional New England town Unity and into the clutches of the Sparrow women.
The first half hooked me right away: disagreeable 12-year old Stella wakes up on her thirteenth birthday with a new gift: she can see how others are going to die. As if that isn't creepy enough, she "sees" a woman at her birthday dinner get brutally murdered. I was under the spell that THE PROBABLE FUTURE would be a page-turning whodunit with elements of literary fiction and mysticism woven throughout.
It is and it's not.
The middle third of the book focuses almost entirely on the Sparrow family in a small town of Unity tucked into the layers of Cake House, the historical home of which they originate; it's the refuge for young Stella, whom after having these disturbing visions is shuttled away to out of safety.
I wouldn't go as far as to say the story unraveled from there, but it took in a new focus: mother-daugher relationships, the past/history of a town and family. We begin to understand why the Sparrow women are the way they are (Stella's mother has her own gift, as does the grandmother). I kept wondering about the initial hook: the murder of that woman.
Hoffman does get us back on track, but much of the murder stuff gets...well, buried and is less substantial. If you know this going in, then I think you'll be fine.
The writing is superb--plenty of attention to detial, settings come alive, and a certain breath of confidence blown into each character. I did, however tire of the bee analogies, as well as that giant oak tree and peach trees brought by sailboat. The points were belabored and tiresome.
Overall, I really liked this book, it made me think and it definitely has improved my overall storytelling in a magical sense
Amid colorful imagery and descriptive characters, Hoffman offers the message that what is believed, may not always be what is true, and that the power of love for family, transcends all else.
Though perhaps not Hoffman's best work, the story flows easily and offers an interesting storyline.
This should have stayed with the Sparrows' stories.