I was stunned by the deep insight into the minds of both men and women in this book, and I loved the way the author makes the current teen with her special power a very modern and realistic teenager.
The way Hoffman explores the challenging relationships between grandmother, mother, daughter, and the men in their lives, is quite moving and sometimes sad, especially when it isn't expressed until the end of someone's life.
These women all have exceptional and unique talents that they acquire upon their 13th birthdays, such as smelling a lie, seeing other people's dreams, and seeing how people will die. How they live with these in society is part of the challenge of their lives, as is figuring out how to use their powers for good.
The book also explores the "unofficial history" vs the official history of the town, looking at the ways these women affect the community beyond just facts, including the history of the persecution of "witches," one of the women's ancestors being one who died as one.
Set in New England where witch hunting was severe, this story is completely believable in that respect. Hoffman's descriptions of the environment are poetic and vivid, and you can almost feel the ghosts of persecuted "witches" in the air.
Hoffman says that she was trying to make some sense out of how unpredictable life and death are, to write about magic in the real world -- the possible and the probable future.
I thought it was wonderful, and it made me want to heal the female relationships in my family, as well as nurture and express my own unique insights and abilities.
Sentina, January 23, 2012 (view all comments by Sentina)
Alice Hoffman has some of the most intriguing ways of using words and presenting images that I have ever read. For example, "... how it would end, with snow and silence on a brilliant afternoon," and "... the truth... once again melting in Will's mouth... so that every word came out twisted in an odd, untrustworthy shape." Sometimes I keep going back and reading such phrases over and over, they are so gripping to me.
The story takes place in current time, but goes back through several generations of the female side of the family, all the way back to when the first one was killed as a "witch," where each of the girls acquires a supernatural power on her 13th birthday, each one unique to that girl. In the story, there is only one girl born to each family, and for unexplained reasons, they apparently all keep the same matriarchal last name of Sparrow.
This book has something of a thoughtful, dreamy quality, with interesting and vivid descriptions of the Boston area in both historical and present contexts, in environment, weather, buildings, people, flowers, and sky. Marie Claire magazine is quoted as saying, "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." Forth Worth Star-Telegram says that Hoffman has "... a beautiful sense of sentence construction, an intriguing imagination, and the ability to create compelling, complex characters that readers care about." I can't say it any better.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
"Review A Day"
by Sarah Churchwell, Times Literary Supplement,
"At her best, Hoffman uses small miracles to signify a secular state of grace: in one particularly lovely passage, a doctor remembers coming to terms with death. But The Probable Future is mostly not Alice Hoffman at her best. Things are out of balance: too much magic, not enough realism." (read the entire TLS review)
by Diane Carman, The Denver Post,
"Hoffman's ethereal prose reflects the magic of her tale....Ultimately, the fantastic Swallow legend is utterly believable, even though you know it's only the magic of a gifted writer in her prime."
by Catherine Newton, The Dallas Star Telegram,
"By Part II, The Probable Future becomes The Predictable Novel. The charm wears off, despite Hoffman's continuous, vigorous crafting of imagery and casting of lyrical phrases."
by Nancy Pate, Orlando Sentinel,
"[S]himmering....[A] soft and dreamy tale of mothers and daughters, love and fate, that easily envelopes us in its enchanted realm....[T]here's no arguing with Hoffman's storytelling skills, the lyrical writing, the beautifully pieced plot."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"[O]verstuffed, ungainly, improbably absorbing....Enough stylish invention here for several novels, but this one's center cannot hold."
by Susan Wickstrom, The Oregonian (Portland, OR),
"The book could be an episode of Oprah: 'Good Witches Who Love the Wrong Men.' But fortunately, Hoffman is saved by her characters, who are nearly as complicated as their relationships with one another."
by Library Journal,
"Hoffman gives us another over-the-top yet thoroughly appealing fictional confection, with themes and settings that recall her Practical Magic....Filled with vivid (if sometimes sketchy) characters and cinematic descriptions of New England landscapes, this book will be a hit wherever Hoffman is in demand."
by School Library Journal,
"Complexly constructed, with intertwined plots, memorable settings, and intriguing characters, this is a magnificent novel."
By turns chilling and enchanting The Probable Future chronicles the Sparrows' legacy as young Stella struggles to cope with her disturbing clairvoyance. Culminating in an exquisite ending, this story showcases the lavish literary gifts that have made Hoffman one of America's most treasured writers.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.