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The Probable Future

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  13,960 ratings  ·  1,187 reviews
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
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Ballantine Books (first published February 24th 2003)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  13,960 ratings  ·  1,187 reviews

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Sep 01, 2014 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:

- Elinor - who can detect liars;

- Elinor's daughter Jenny - who can see people's dreams;

- and Jenny's daughter Stella - who can see how people will die.

At th
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
May 07, 2011 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
Jul 26, 2009 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 28, 2007 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
Marie Sexton
Feb 11, 2016 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. ...more
Mar 28, 2014 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. ...more
Jun 28, 2009 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 sim ...more
Feb 18, 2014 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
Badly Drawn Girl
Dec 07, 2010 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.
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Once again a wonderful magical read from Alice Hoffman!
Jan 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: bookcrossing
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
Feb 03, 2009 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
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
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Surprised to discover that I liked Alice Hoffman's writing. I had mixed her up with another author and avoided her before this. I loved the touch of magic, the heart and pathos of the people, the charm in her writing. I will try another... ...more
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I just love her magical stories.
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Unfortunately, this didn't work well for me. I did like the writing, I think Alice Hoffman weaves a great story, however, her books tend to make me kind of sad. I love the whimsical and magical elements that are present, but--and I'm sure this is intentional, like trying to be somewhat realistic--her characters drive me nuts. I couldn't stand almost anyone in this book. Now, I understand in real life there are tons of unlikable people, but Lord, I don't want to sit with them. Stella was the wors ...more
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, magical-realism
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 -
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
Carolyn F.

The normal Alice Hoffman book - people with something extra in dysfunctional relationships - love it. I loved how even finding their special someone doesn't make all of their problems go away. Really good book.
Dele Haynes
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman, (Fiction) I've been enjoying a great discovery of Alice Hoffman's books recently. Her books have a very strong female center where the women take the lead. In a world where they solve what is happening in their own lives. Her books also includes the otherworldness that women seem to move through so effortlessly.
The Sparrow women are the center of The Probable Future, each Sparrow woman is given a spiritual gift on her thirteenth birthday. Elinor Sparrow see
Apr 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I loved, loved, loved The Marriage of Opposites, so when I found this on a vacation house bookshelf I dove right in. It was laborious. The descriptions of flora were at first intoxicating and then at times it felt like reading a seed catalog.
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Alice Hoffman writes beautifully. Her stories are magical. I've read 4 of her works, Practical Magic, The Ice Queen, The children's book Watertales(which includes Aquamarine and Indigo, and The Probable Future. This by far is my favorite. The story of the Sparrow women and their gifts is so captivating. ...more
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was my introduction to Alice Hoffman and I really didn't care for her style of writing. I really thought I was listening to a translation and was amazed to see that she has lived her entire life in New York. Something about her sentience structure did not seem to flow well. Possibly this was due to the narration by Susan Ericksen but I didn't think so at the time.

This was a story of a family whose women were possessed of one supernatural gift each. The main focus was on the three most recen
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 04, 2009 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
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
A nice easy read. Comfort food in book form. Not the best for you. Soothing and it goes down so easy leaving you wanting more as you turn the last few pages. A place you want to live or at least be close enough to so you can go on the weekends to recharge. And even though I still don't like that they call the house Cake House, it's rather grown on me now. ...more
Sep 09, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 25, 2009 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
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Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The World That We Knew, The Rules of Magic, The Marriage of Opposites, Practical Magic, The Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. Her most recent novel is Magic Lessons. She lives near Boston.

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