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The Probable Future

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  10,805 Ratings  ·  901 Reviews
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 to the future - a future that she might not want to see.

In Alice Hoffman's latest tour de force, this vivid and intriguing cast of characters confronts a haunting past - and a very current murder
Paperback, 322 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Ballantine Books (first published February 24th 2003)
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Practical Magic by Alice HoffmanThe Dovekeepers by Alice HoffmanHere on Earth by Alice HoffmanThe Probable Future by Alice HoffmanThe Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
Best Alice Hoffman Novel
4th out of 34 books — 302 voters
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García MárquezThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe House of the Spirits by Isabel AllendeLike Water for Chocolate by Laura EsquivelLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
Favorite Magical Realism Novels
71st out of 891 books — 4,150 voters

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Community Reviews

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Mar 18, 2016 Nikoleta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: magical-realist
Υπέροχο δείγμα του αμερικάνικου μαγικού ρεαλισμού. Μου άρεσε ιδιαίτερα η τόσο ρομαντική αφήγηση και η μαγική ατμόσφαιρα. Εξαιρετικό βιβλίο. (Ατυχέστατη η επιλογή του ελληνικού εξωφύλλου, δεν μου ταιριάζει καθόλου με το ύφος και την ατμόσφαιρα του κειμένου.)
May 07, 2011 Nardia rated it it was amazing
This is a lovely story. I was hooked from the start, reading it all in two sittings, and when the book finally let me go it was with a sigh of relief and satisfaction. Alice Hoffman's grasp on her words is just magical; tightly controlled, so that each sentence seems to hold layers of meaning, but also flowing easily from the tongue. There's definitely a certain poetry in the way she weaves the environments where the story takes place, and she doesn't write as though her readers are stupid. Many ...more
Some things, Ms. Hoffman, some things need not be explained until the words don't even sound like words anymore. In fact, Ms. Hoffman explains the setting (ie. Cake House, flora, fauna, seasons in MA, etc) so much and in so many different ways, she makes Stephen King look terse. And that, people, is talent.

The characters are one-dimensional, unrealistic, and completely unlikeable. The women in the novel are either two of the following: cold and constantly angry for no valid reason or daft and ri
Aug 29, 2007 Meagan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5stars
Honestly, this book was one of the best depictions of mother-daughter relationships I've ever read. I felt for both mother and child in it, I could see both sides and where both were coming from - yet unlike other novels, I saw no clear way to fix it, because there was no clear way to fix things. It was kind of heartbreaking to read, because I saw my own relationship with my mom in Hoffman's words.

The only downside to the plot was Stella's relationship with the football player. It seemed awkward
Sep 26, 2009 Thomas rated it liked it
"The Probable Future" is about the Sparrow family, a lineage of woman who through each generation have their own unique powers and abilities. Elinor, the grandmother, can detect falsehood. Jenny, the middle-aged mother, can see other people's dreams. And Stella, the granddaughter, can see how people are going to die. These powers come with tribulations though. Elinor is slowly dying. Jenny has a cheating ex-husband and has been living her entire life with the wrong person. And Stella is your ...more
Marie Sexton
Feb 11, 2016 Marie Sexton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
OMG, I can't remember the last time I cried so much reading a book. One of those perfect stories that makes me feel like a fraud for daring to call myself an author. My eyes are swollen and I'll have the sniffles all night, but it was worth it.
Badly Drawn Girl
Dec 07, 2010 Badly Drawn Girl rated it liked it

I have some mixed feelings about this book which usually happens when I read a book that allows me to suspend belief but which doesn't have enough substance to sustain my enjoyment beyond the act of reading. To put it simply, while reading it I was sucked into the fairy tale like quality. But after I was finished (and had come back down to earth) the flaws showed up quite clearly. I felt that people changed too much, too quickly... and that in hindsight the story had some huge holes in the plot.
Apr 13, 2015 Tania rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
We know what we need when we get it.

2.5 stars. I should have enjoyed this more, it had all the right elements - magical realism, mother-daughter issues, special magical abilities, but I didn't. I could not connect with the characters at all, and I think the book was too long. I absolutely adored The Dovekeepers by same author, which was a very different type of book, I'm holding thumbs she'll do something similar in future, because I don't think I'll be reading her older books if they are like t
Aug 04, 2009 Schmacko rated it did not like it
(This is a little long, cuz I get bitchy.)

There’s an audience for this type of Hoffman novel. I probably ain’t it.

I would guess that Hoffman’s core readers as transcendental herbalists from Martha’s Vineyard, and I’m sure I’m not that! So, maybe I was destined to dislike this book

The Probable Future is about the three most recent generations of the Sparrow women. All Sparrow women have witch-like gifts, like being about to sniff out liars or the talent to predict the mode of others’ deaths. It’
Aug 30, 2016 Barbara rated it liked it

Each of the Sparrow women of Unity, Massachusetts has an unusual ability which manifests itself on her 13th birthday. In this book - due to a confluence of circumstances - three generations of Sparrow women find themselves living together in the family's vintage "cake house" - which has the shape of a giant wedding cake. Brought together are grandmother Elinor - who can detect liars, her daughter Jenny - who can see people's dreams, and granddaughter Stella - who can see how people will die.

My rating is 4-1/2 stars. This was the type of story that started off slowly and hooked you with little, interesting tidbits of information and before you know it, you have Kleenex nearby and actually come to care about every single person, living or dead, in the town of Unity as if you were living there right along with them. Alice Hoffman's writing was poetic and profound. Her theme of love was shown in all it's ugliness, from grief to heartbreak, and it all it's wonder from new love to ...more
Apr 02, 2014 Mj rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
this book reminded me how much I love to read. I don't know enough about composition to say if it was well written, but I do know when someone is a good storyteller. hoffman is definitely that.
Nov 01, 2015 Susan rated it it was amazing
Once again a wonderful magical read from Alice Hoffman!
Izetta Autumn
Some of the writing in Alice Hoffman's novel is truly inspired. Her characters do indeed come to life, even if at times they seem to be tried and true caricatures of New England. Hoffman has been quoted as saying that "books may be the only real magic," and certainly it's clear from her prose that she wants the reader to feel magical.

The Probably Future follows the story of three Sparrow womyn: Elinor, Jenny, and Stella. The three are descended from a long line of womyn known for their unusual
Sep 27, 2011 Kat rated it it was amazing
Okay, Alice Hoffman. I think we already know this is going to be a review full of praises. Alice Hoffman is my favorite, FAVORITE contemporary author. I suck up anything that woman writes. The Probable Future however, seems to be the perfect remedy to any reading lull I find myself in, and it's always my something-good-to-read standby. I've re-read it half a dozen times and I still enjoy it no matter what mood I'm in, recently I've felt a little overwhelmed with books and work, so I decided the ...more
Jan 22, 2009 Amy rated it liked it
I though I'd read this when it came out, and was right- I had- but went ahead and reread it anyway. Hoffman has a thing about the relationships of women in a family lineage- Practical Magic, Blackbird House both come to mind. But she has such a lyrical way of breathing life into her characters, that the journey is magical. Her books start off and you can feel the breeze, smell the scents in the wind, feel the weight of the very air. She weaves the environment into every story, whether it's a New ...more
May 16, 2016 Maria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romance
Αυτό το βιβλίο ήθελα πάρα πολύ να το διαβάσω αλλά δεν ήταν αυτό που περίμενα. Τρεις γενιές γυναικών η μία πιο προβληματική απο την άλλη. Η πρώτη η Έλινορ κλείνεται στον εαυτό της όταν χάνει τον άντρα της και δεν πάει να καεί ο κόσμος και μαζί με αυτόν και η κόρη της;! Πέρα βρέχει! καμία σημασία! το μόνο που έχει γι' αυτή σημασία είναι ο κήπος της. Η δεύτερη, η Τζένη της κρατάει κακία και φεύγει με το πιο χαμένο κορμί του κόσμου γιατί νόμιζε πως αυτός βλέπει καλά όνειρα, κάνει παιδί μαζί του, τον ...more
Feb 03, 2009 Lisa rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Yes, another Alice Hoffman book under my belt. When I read this book, I was transported to a town I would love to live in. I would love to work in that tea shop and cut plum pie, live in Cake House, have mystery, wisteria, bees and powers surround me. That would be wonderful. But the other morning, I had a dream about this book. And in this dream I was bugged by how passive Jenny is. She is passive like like March in "Here on Earth." It's like these characters turn late 30s/early 40s and become ...more
Mar 25, 2009 LeAnn rated it liked it
Hoffman's description of her made-up New England town is simultaneously realistic and lushly magical. She sets a stage well, with assertions about Massachusetts in March that lead the reader to accept that females born into a certain family have gifts no living person can have: the ability to see how someone will die, to experience another person's dreams, to identify a liar on sight.

Hoffman ties everything up very neatly, so that all the females have a love interest, bad guys lose or grow up, h
Jan 27, 2015 Melanti rated it really liked it
Shelves: magical-realism, 2015
I hate to admit this because I really am a fan, but Alice Hoffman is rather formulaic. So, if you've read other Hoffman books and liked them, you'll probably like this one too.

I do feel obligated to point out that henna doesn't work like a commercial hair dye. As a general rule, you can't get hair the color of a stop light by using it. Nor can you decide at 4:30 that you'd like to dye your hair and be finished and presentable for a dinner party that night.

I've seen this error in several books -
Jan 09, 2013 Ruby rated it it was amazing
Some books are like short, hot love affairs. They are irresistible, calling out to you for attention during any number of inappropriate times, such as when driving. You might leave such books open on the seat next to you, wishing for traffic and long red lights. When books like this are over, they must be mourned.

Oh, I don't know if I believe in Alice Hoffman's world of redemption, of blue roses and the whims of bees and birds, but I sure would like to. I'd like to visit Unity and look for the s
Jul 23, 2011 Tina rated it it was amazing
This was a fantastic book! It was beautifully written and nicely plotted. Basically, at the age of 13, each girl in the family develops some type of supernatural ability. This novel explored the intricate relationships of mothers/daughters as well as including some "redemption" for a much-misunderstood relative from years ago. This is the first novel of Hoffmans's I have read, and it will be the first of many if they are all this good!
This was a major disappointment for me. I usually love Alice Hoffman books, but this one was just eh. My major complaint is the way that it was written. You would get 1 page of the actual story and then 3 pages of some side stuff that doesn't really matter. All through the book you get this. It really just made reading the story so much harder.

The 2nd complaint I had was that 90% of the characters were asshats in some shape or form. I really don't care that they seemed to redeem themselves in th
Andrea Seaver
May 27, 2014 Andrea Seaver rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysterious, charming
The Probable Future is a slim little volume, one with less bulk than my usual reads. I worried that the depth of character building may have been rather shallow. This was not to be the case.
While I wish that Alice Hoffman had doubled the length of this novel, to allow for more time spent with these entrancing characters, I did not feel a lack of more, just a desire for it.
The Sparrow ladies receive their "gift" on their 13th birthdays. Jenny, daughter of Elinor, waits with dread to see what wi
For three hundred years, when a Sparrow girl reaches thirteen years of age, she receives her "gift", which at times may seem like more of a curse. The first Sparrow girl, Rebecca, received the gift of being unable to feel pain, which ultimately led to her being tortured and weighted down by rocks before being thrown in a lake to drown. In the years to follow, among others, there is a Sparrow woman who can turn nearly anything into a delicious meal, one who can take away a woman's pain during ...more
Mar 09, 2010 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a book I just stumbled upon in the library. I was looking for a book read by Susan Ericksen, my favorite female reader. I wasn't sure whether I would like it because it took over half of the first disc to get to any dialog. But I soon got caught up in the lives of the people of Unity. This has some paranormal fantasy, but it is primarily about relationships between mother and daughter, wive and husband, lost and found loves, redemption and forgiveness. There is also a killer in this ...more
Oct 02, 2009 Lynda rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This was a beautifully written book about the Sparrow’s family history spanning 13 generations. Rebecca Sparrow walked out of the woods one day when she was seven or eight and no one knew where she originated. Named Rebecca by the washerwoman who took her in and Sparrow by the local boys who saw Sparrows flocking to her almost supernaturally, she lived a short life affecting the small town of Unity, Massachusettes for generations to come.

Each Sparrow woman kept her surname and bore only one chil
May 03, 2010 Shannon rated it really liked it
The Probable Future was a great beach read: quickly compelling, easy to read but thought provoking. It follows three generations of Sparrow women: Stella, Jenny and Elinor. For generations, the women of this family have received a gift on their thirteenth birthday (such as the ability to go without sleep or the ability to literally smell a lie). Stella's thirteenth is fast approaching and brings her a gift that indirectly results in her father being arrested on charges of murder.

As my reviews of
Sep 15, 2016 Tonia rated it it was amazing
Ahhh...loved this! Beautiful writing, interesting characters, and satisfying ending. I love the worlds she creates in her books...this is my favorite of her books so far. Reminded me so much of Garden Spells, which is another favorite.
Aug 14, 2010 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alice Hoffman used to be one of my favorite writers. This book has all the trappings of a Hoffman novel, strong eccentric women, possible magic, unpredictable weather, liars and con men, flowers, food, frogs, bees, superstition, and above all love. A sentence like the following can only be found in a Hoffman novel: "The air was soft and damp, fishy in the way March air can be, clinging to clothes and urging the buds of the magnolias to open."

Nobody describes first love the way Hoffman does: "Had
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Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New ...more
More about Alice Hoffman...

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“Love was like that, like a dream you didn't quite understand, one in which you didn't necessarily know what you were looking at until it was right in front of you.” 12 likes
“When people related by blood were so careful with each other, when they were so very polite, there was soon nothing left to say. Only niceties that meant so little they might as well have been spoken to a complete stranger. Pass the butter, open the door, see you after school, there's rain again, it's sunny, it's cold. Has the dog eaten? Has the window been shut? Where are you going? Why is it I don't know you at all?

Such statements did not add up to anything like a family...”
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