Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Probable Future” as Want to Read:
The Probable Future
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Probable Future

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  10,698 Ratings  ·  891 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
Audio CD, 10 pages
Published June 26th 2003 by Brilliance Audio (first published February 24th 2003)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Probable Future, please sign up.

Recent Questions

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
"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 sim ...more
Marie Sexton
Feb 11, 2016 Marie Sexton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 04, 2009 Schmacko rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
(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’
Badly Drawn Girl

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  ·  review of another edition
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

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 restor ...more
Apr 02, 2014 Mj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
Once again a wonderful magical read from Alice Hoffman!
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
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
Sep 27, 2011 Kat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 25, 2009 LeAnn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 03, 2009 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 27, 2015 Melanti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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 chi ...more
Andrea Seaver
May 27, 2014 Andrea Seaver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 nov ...more
Oct 02, 2009 Lynda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jayne Charles
This had an interesting set-up: a family in which the women inherit special abilities on their thirteenth birthdays. Stretching back generations the quirk threw up some interesting scenarios (one of them didn’t need sleep, one of them couldn’t feel pain etc etc). Some were a bit naff, I have to say. The one who could dream other people’s dreams, for example. I would have been tempted to send that one back to the magic shop.

So, as the story begins the most recent descendant of the magical line d
Apr 01, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of urban magic
Recommended to Judy by: dolphinwriter
Finally I got around to reading this book. The copy came to me in 2008. I loved the story, the characters, the family histories, the old house, the lake, the roses and old trees, the evocative prose....everything that often is found in an Alice Hoffman novel. I found this book to have themes similar to those in Practical Magic. I felt like I could smell the lake and the old damp house. Even the food descriptions in this book made me taste or imagine...was it 9-Frog Soup? I enjoyed the stories ab ...more
Aug 14, 2010 Mike rated it liked it
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • When Autumn Leaves
  • The Kitchen Daughter
  • In My Dreams
  • Julia's Chocolates
  • The Secret of Everything
  • The Limits of Enchantment
  • The Love Goddess' Cooking School
  • Of Bees and Mist
  • The Witch of Belladonna Bay
  • The Language of Trees
  • Eva Moves the Furniture
  • The Wild Mother
  • The Wishing Thread
  • The Map of True Places
  • The House on Tradd Street (Tradd Street, #1)
  • The Witch's Trinity
  • The Rock Orchard
  • The Mermaids Singing
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 York ...more
More about Alice Hoffman...

Share This Book

“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...”
More quotes…