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The Probable Futureby Alice Hoffman
"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." Sarah Churchwell, Times Literary Supplement (read the entire TLS review)
Synopses & Reviews
1. Each of the Sparrow women has a secret view into the lives of others--Stella sees their deaths, Elinor their falsehoods, and Jenny their dreams. In which ways do these attributes make the women more perceptive to those around them? How does this paranormal ability insulate and isolate them? Who adjusts the best to using her gift to accomplish something good, and how does she do so?
2. In which ways does Jenny's extreme overprotectiveness of her daughter cause a rift in their relationship? Do you think the two will be closer as time wears on? Why is Stella so much tougher on her mother than on her father? How is Will affected by Stella's unadulterated devotion to him?
3. Why does Stella ally herself with Will? In which ways is he a devoted father, and how is he lacking as a parental role model? What characteristics does Will share with Jimmy?
4. How do you account for the estrangement between Elinor
and Jenny? How does the stubbornness of each woman expand the breach between them? How does Stella act as a bridge between her warring mother and grandmother?
5. The three generations of Sparrow women all are drawn to men with problems, both hidden and visible. Is this always true in love? Is every relationship fraught with problems, hidden or otherwise? Can you think of other works of fiction in which everyone is in love with the wrong person or where the wrong person turns out to in fact be right?
6. How does love transform characters in the novel? Which evolution was the most surprising to you?
7. The season of spring is a tangible presence in the novel. How is it a harbinger of change, and how does it pose a turning point for Stella in particular? How is it a symbol of renewal in the book, but also of death?
8. What about Elinor is so compelling to Brock Stewart? How does she feel about him? Why does Brock feel that he has let Elinor down? Would you classify their relationship as romantic, friendship, or something in the middle? Why?
9. What message does the book convey about history? There seems to be an official and an unofficial history. Matt is interested in the unofficial history--the history of the women in town and their effects on the fabric of their society. What part of history is written with invisible ink? Which groups are most forgotten in the official history of our
country? Why is it important to note that all of the monuments on the town green of Unity honor men and those who have fought in wars?
10. For the first time, she didn't want anyone's opinion but her own, Stella thinks when she doesn't ask for her best friend's opinion about Jimmy. How is this a significant moment in the development of Stella's independence? In what ways does Stella rely on Juliet, both for guidance and support? In friendships, as in love, do opposites often attract? Why do
you think this is so?
11. How does Liza evolve from a plain girl into the woman Will falls in love with? In which ways does she act as a mother figure to Stella? What ultimately draws Will to her, and how does her advice and guidance change him? How does Liza's past loss--her own history--affect the person she ultimately becomes?
12. In which ways are Matt and Will similar? How are they diff
"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." Diane Carman, The Denver Post
"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." Catherine Newton, The Dallas Star Telegram
"[S]himmering....[A] soft and dreamy tale of mothers and daughters, love and fate, that easily envelopes us in its enchanted realm....
"[O]verstuffed, ungainly, improbably absorbing....Enough stylish invention here for several novels, but this one's center cannot hold." Kirkus Reviews
"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." Susan Wickstrom, The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"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." Library Journal
"Complexly constructed, with intertwined plots, memorable settings, and intriguing characters, this is a magnificent novel." School Library Journal
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.
<P>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.</P> <P>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.</P><P>In <I>The Probable Future</I> 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, <I>The Probable Future</I> 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.</P><P>Poignant, arresting, unsettling, <I>The Probable Future</I> showcases the lavish literary gifts that have made Alice Hoffman one of America's most treasured writers.</P><HR><P>"A thrilling adventure of literary alchemy... A magical, mystical tour de force of pure entertainment."<BR> <I> THE SEATTLE TIMES</I></P><P>"Delicious . . . Hoffman is an unapologetic optimist, and optimism is in short supply these days. It feels like a vacation to curl up with [<I>The Probable Future</I>]."<BR> <I>THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW</I></P><P>"Instantly alluring . . . A mysterious, modern-day fairy tale . . . Hoffman is an amazingly talented writer with a beautiful sense
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.
Poignant, arresting, unsettling, The Probable Future showcases the lavish literary gifts that have made Alice Hoffman one of America’s most treasured writers.
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