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

The Probable Future

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  8,713 ratings  ·  744 reviews
When the women in the Sparrow family reach thirteen, they develop a unique ability. In young Stella's case, the gift, which is both a blessing and a curse, is the ability to see a person's probable future. Stella foresees a gruesome murder, and tells her charming, feckless father about it, but it is too late - the murder has already been committed and suspicion falls on hi ...more
Paperback, 322 pages
Published August 5th 2004 by Vintage (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.

Be the first to ask a question about The Probable Future

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
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
"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
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
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
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.
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
(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’
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
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
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.
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
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 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
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
I think I'm the only person I know that loved "Practical Magic" the original novel just as much as I loved the movie! Later, I found this novel by the same author on a bargain shelf and picked it up. It collected dust on my shelf for years, until this summer I went on a rare fiction binge.

I love the way Alice Hoffman weaves together a story. She adds a bit of magic and yet it's still very down-to-earth and real. She paints vivid pictures of what the people and places are like. This is a story I
Although Hoffman's "Practical Magic" is most likely her most famous novel, it was "The Probable Future" that is easily my favorite novel by this skillful author. In this book, we find a young and rebellious teenager trying to discover her own identity by learning about the generations of "Sparrow" women that came before her. Rebecca Sparrow was considered a witch, Eleanor Sparrow can spot liars, Jenny Sparrow is harrowed by the dreams of others, and Stella Sparrow views people dying before it oc ...more
I have to stop reading Alice Hoffman. I read Here on Earth and The River King and both of them felt flat to me - so did this one. I never came to care for the characters. I felt that the stories had to potential to be very interesting, but what could have been a spellbinding mix of the human and otherworldly never really ever gelled for me. I found myself skimming pages of botanical descriptions, and let's face it, if you're not a botanist, pages of descriptions of the local flora is most likely ...more
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
This book was a simple and fast read. I think its perfect for the beach or a vacation when you dont want to tackle anything too challenging. The story is about generations of women (but focuses on the most recent 3 generations) who inheret a gift on their 13th birthday (ie can't feel pain, can see how people will die, tell when someone is lying). I enjoyed the book for what it was but it didn't pull any emotion from me or make itself all that memorable to me. The book was written at a medium pac ...more
I really enjoyed the characters in this book. They seemed to come alive for me. And how there are all interwoven throughout the story is very well done. You start to connect and really care about everyone and want what is best for all of them. Which is really what the characters are searching for. What is best for them in life. They have all gone so wrong and the town of Unity is the setting for where they hope to find their way back to their lives. I loved the mystery and abilities the Sparrow ...more
It's been a while since I've read a book by Alice Hoffman. I have enjoyed most of her books, and would rank this as one of my favorites. It's a good mother/daughter story with Hoffman's usual magical realism. For thirteen generations, the women of the Sparrow family have each discovered that they have an unusual gift. The matriarch, Rebecca, could feel no physical pain. In the current generations Elinor can tell when someone is lying, Jenny can see others' dreams, and Stella can see how some pe ...more
Linda  Branham Greenwell
The Probable Future opens in a New England town, where Jenny Sparrow frets over the legacy her daughter Stella will receive upon waking on her thirteenth birthday. All Sparrow woman - and they are all women - find their one "talent", always something magical or supernatural, on this day. The first Sparrow, Rebecca, could not feel pain while Jenny's mother Elinor can instantly detect a lie. Jenny herself dreams other people's dreams. I won't disclose Stella's gift and how it effects those around ...more
Very good story with characters I could relate to whom I enjoyed. I really like Hoffman's style, it's literary without being too preachy, and the paranormal elements in her stories always strike just the right note with me (they're never over the top). I got frustrated midway through the book because I wasn't reading it fast enough and wanted to know what happened in the end. Overall I'm pleased with how things turned out, though I did feel the murderer was let off a bit easy.

Still, a good read
Sometimes I forget for years at a time how much I love Alice Hoffman and then I read something and think, "why do I not immediately devour every single thing she writes?"
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • When Autumn Leaves
  • Julia's Chocolates
  • In My Dreams
  • The Limits of Enchantment
  • The Kitchen Daughter
  • The Love Goddess' Cooking School
  • The Secret of Everything
  • The Language of Trees
  • The Rock Orchard
  • Of Bees and Mist
  • The Wishing Thread
  • Eva Moves the Furniture
  • The House on Tradd Street (Tradd Street, #1)
  • The Mercy of Thin Air
  • A Year on Ladybug Farm
  • The Witch of Little Italy
  • The Witches of Willowmere (Willowmere Chronicles, #1)
  • Season of the Witch
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...
The Dovekeepers Here on Earth Practical Magic The Museum of Extraordinary Things The Ice Queen

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.” 9 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…