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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman (Doubleday) Alice Hoffman’s most magical and mystical novel to date describes three generations of extraordinary women who are driven to unite in crisis and discover the rewards of reconciliation and love.
Women of the Sparrow family are living with the legacy of witchcraft. Back in Colonial days, in a small settlement called Unity, Massachusetts , 1697, a strange girl who can't feel physical pain walked out of the woods and unnerved the witch-fearing townsfolk. Rebecca Sparrow was tried as a witch and drowned. Today her descendants possess extraordinary gifts – three living generations of Sparrow women confront their strange and challenging heritage. Elinor, the dying matriarch of the family, can detect falsehood. Her estranged daughter, Jenny, can see people’s dreams when they sleep. And thirteen year-old granddaughter, Stella, has a mental window on the future – a future that she might not want to see.
The Probable Future this vivid and intriguing cast of characters confronts a very current murder – against the backdrop of small-town New England . By turns chilling and enchanting, The Probable Future chronicles young Stella’s 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.

Subplots are numerous: Brock Stewart, Elinor's doctor, has been secretly in love with Elinor for years; his teenage grandson, Hap, meets the Sparrows and develops a crush on Juliet; and Will becomes close with Liza, an old high school classmate of Jenny's. The plot is crowded, but Hoffman's storytelling is spellbinding.

Poignant, arresting, unsettling, The Probable Future showcases the literary gifts that have made Alice Hoffman one of America ’s most treasured writers. In the final analysis, The Probable Future is lush, suspenseful, rich in earthy and sensuous detail, sweet and hopeful.


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