Hoffman has peopled this book with a cast of believable, if not especially memorable, characters illustrating a range of human behavior, from the almost pathological selfishness of Will Avery to the deep-seated kindness and thoughtfulness of men like Dr. Stewart and Will's shy but loyal younger brother, Matt. She also paints an engaging picture of small-town New England life. Her themes — the importance of learning to see things as they are, the redemptive potential of kindness and love — are just as appealing. Her fiction may not be literature in the honorific sense, it may not even be "good writing," but there are good reasons why many people enjoy reading it.
And although Hoffman has long imbued life with elements of a fairy tale, as in earlier books like Practical Magic, the grim realities of the times in which we live make this story particularly seductive. Susan Kelly
Magic is once again knitted into the fabric of a Hoffman novel, this one revolving around a New England family living with the legacy of witchcraft. In colonial Unity, Mass., Rebecca Sparrow was tried as a witch and drowned because of her physical inability to feel pain. Her present-day descendants possess extraordinary gifts. Elinor, the dying matriarch of the Sparrow family, has the ability to discern liars. Her estranged daughter, Jenny Avery, can divine other people's dreams. And Jenny's 13-year-old daughter, Stella, knows how and when people will die. Jenny is recently divorced from Will Avery, a charming but erratic and hard-drinking music teacher; she and Stella live in Boston, where Stella is a charity case at the exclusive Rabbit School for girls. Brainy and unpopular, Stella chafes at her mother's invasive omniscience while trying to make sense of her own powers. When Stella asks her father, Will, to try to prevent a death, he ends up becoming a murder suspect, and her mother sends her to live with Elinor at Cake House, her home in Unity, until the scandal dies down. Jenny and Will soon join her, as does Will's brother, Matt, a reclusive scholar, and Stella's best friend, the audacious, jaded Juliet Aronson. Matt is studying the life of Rebecca Sparrow, and his research reveals strange echoes of Rebecca's story in the lives of her descendants. 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, and readers will wish for more time with each of the full-bodied, wholly absorbing characters, but few will complain: Hoffman's storytelling is as spellbinding as ever. Author tour. (June 24) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Hoffman has become a master at weaving the contemporary realities and difficulties of modern life with strange, secret pasts. The magic in this novel, reminiscent of Hoffman's earlier work, Practical Magic, is perhaps better described as witchcraft. Events are complicated by the pettiness of small-town standards and a landscape where everyone knows everyone else's business, yet it's to a small town an hour from Boston where the characters run the moment there is trouble. On another level, despite being able to see people's deaths in advance or read the dreams of others or be pierced with ten arrowheads and feel no pain, these characters seem reasonably ordinary-and angry. The author expertly conveys the tensions that pervade multiple generations of a family, whether it be a teenager's reaction to her parents' divorce, a widowed mother devoting all her attention to her garden, or a high school student with a promising future eloping with the town troublemaker. Listeners easily become involved in their lives and care what happens to them even when we can more or less guess the outcome. History, it would seem, can't help but repeat itself, but there are surprises. Read by Susan Ericksen, this program is essential for most audio collections.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-On her 13th birthday, Stella Avery receives a remarkable gift. Like her mother, grandmother, and other women in her family reaching back to the 1600s, she awakens to discover that she now has a special paranormal ability. Her mother, Jenny, dreams other people's dreams; and her grandmother, Elinor, can ferret out deceit and lies by looking into someone's eyes. When Stella foresees a woman's death and has her father warn the victim, a series of cataclysmic events ensue. Her father is charged with the woman's murder, Jenny and Stella are forced to move in with Elinor, and eventually the eerie tale of their matriarch, Rebecca Sparrow, is brought full circle. Hoffman introduces elements of magical realism, making the book reminiscent of her novel Practical Magic (Berkley, 1996). With a home environment that includes a haunted pond, roads full of toads, and snapping turtles at every bush, the setting emphasizes the women's otherworldliness. The strength of the Sparrow females allows them to face prejudice, love, accusations, threats, and death, all the while keeping their personal integrity, finding the capacity to go on, and experiencing life as good. Complexly constructed, with intertwined plots, memorable settings, and intriguing characters, this is a magnificent novel.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A teenaged girl's prophetic powers constitute the eye of several storms brewed up in the magical-realist's overstuffed, ungainly, improbably absorbing 16th novel. Taking a page or two from her Practical Magic (1995), Hoffman (Blue Diary, 2001, etc.) once again creates a trio of women gifted and burdened with extrasensory powers. Stella Avery discovers on her 13th birthday that she is able to see people's futures-an alarming phenomenon that causes her father Will to be falsely suspected of murder. Stella's mother Jenny, contentedly divorced from the feckless Will (who has a long history of selfish and irresponsible behavior), similarly troubled by her own ability to "read" people's dreams, sends Stella away from scandal and possible danger to live with maternal grandmother Elinor, a widowed recluse who tends her beloved garden and considers the fruits of her ability to "smell out" falsehood, while she's dying of cancer. First Jenny, then Will follow Stella's path, and the tale opens-often quite awkwardly-to involve Elinor's physician and friend Brock Stewart (who has secretly loved her for decades); Jenny's formerly mousy high-school classmate Liza Hull (a woman reawakened and transformed by love); Dr. Stewart's affable grandson Hap, who befriends Stella and falls for her acerbic visiting girlfriend Juliet Aronson; Will's "good" brother Matt, a scholarly bachelor who has never forgotten Jenny; and the 17th-century figure of Rebecca Sparrow, a troubled and doomed woman evoked by both Matt's historical researches and the experiences of her descendants, which are eventually seen to be replicating Rebecca's own. Hoffman flits from one center of interest to another like a distracted butterfly.The effect is both jarring and intriguing. We're interested in all her people, but their subordination to the increasingly busy plot tends to drain away interest created by their beguiling individual eccentricities. Enough stylish invention here for several novels, but this one's center cannot hold. Maybe next time. Author tour. Agent: Elaine Markson/Elaine Markson Agency
A thrilling adventure of literary alchemy . . . A magical, mystical tour de force of pure entertainment.”—The Seattle Times
“Delicious . . . Hoffman is an unapologetic optimist, and optimism is in short supply these days. It feels like a vacation to curl up with [The Probable Future].”—The New York Times Book Review
“Instantly alluring . . . A mysterious, modern-day fairy tale . . . Hoffman is an amazingly talented writer with a beautiful sense of sentence construction, an intriguing imagination, and the ability to create compelling, complex characters that readers care about.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Hoffman’s ethereal tale of a family of women with supernatural gifts is a magical escape, grounded in the complex relationships between mothers and daughters.”—Marie Claire
“Hoffman knows how to put magic into her novels, sometimes as an element of the plot;
always in the quality of her writing.”—The Hartford Courant
“The Probable Future dazzles with its bristling examination of life’s trying tests of the women of the Sparrow family. The electrifying result is an under-the-microscope look at love, friendship, and the ties that blind and bind.”—The Seattle Times
“[A] bewitching story of gifted women unlucky at love . . . Hoffman is now expert at sketching the New England landscape in the past and future, and the equally chilly psychological landscape of extraordinary women trapped in an ordinary word. . . . She shows a deft hand at tracing the movement from child to adult, showing an unusual ability to create sympathetic characters of all ages.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Hoffman has perfected her very own entrancing style of magical realism and mystical romance anchored to the moody, history-laden Massachusetts countryside. . . . Hoffman’s newest cast of characters is unfailingly magnetic, from her eye-rolling teenagers to her wryly in-love seniors to her suddenly aflame fortysomethings, and the story she tells is as lush as it is suspenseful, as rich in earthy and sensuous detail as it is sweet and hopeful.”—Booklist
“Hoffman is at her best, chronicling in meticulous and beautiful detail the ways the three Sparrow women are transformed . . . The characters are richly drawn, each idiosyncratically real and yet each just a bit of a sorceress.”—Book magazine (four stars)
“Full-bodied, wholly absorbing characters . . . Hoffman’s storytelling is as spellbinding as ever.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Spellbinding . . . Of all the magical realists writing today, she may have the best sense of balance.”—Portland Oregonian
“Filled with vivid . . . characters and cinematic descriptions of New England landscapes, this book will be a hit.”—Library Journal
“[A] lyrical, magic-infused work . . . Another witches’ brew of ethereal characters [and] lush settings.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer