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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


****The Probable Future

by Alice Hoffman

Reviewed August 16, 2003.
Doubleday, New York, 2003.  322 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (F HOF).
A Sonderbooks’ Stand-out of 2003:  #6, Literary Fiction

Ever since the mysterious Rebecca Sparrow walked into the town of Unity, thirteen generations of Sparrow women have received a gift on their thirteenth birthday.  For Stella Sparrow Avery, newly turned thirteen in Boston, the gift doesn’t bring her joy.  She can look at a person and know how they are going to die.

This wasn’t the first time a gift has caused trouble. Stella’s mother Jenny received the gift of dreaming other people’sdreams.  It was a dream the morning of her thirteenth birthdaythat made her feel she was destined to marry Will Avery, even if, inthe years later, he never dreamed an interesting dream again.  Itwas Jenny’s mother Elinor’s gift that told her that Will Avery was a liar,through and through.  Certainly Jenny’s marriage to Will did notend happily.

When Stella is eating with her father and sees that a womanin the restaurant is going to die by a violent murder, she begs Willto do something.  He goes to the police, who don’t do anythinguntil the woman is indeed murdered.  Then they arrest Will.

After that, events conspire to bring Stella, Jenny, and Elinor together, back in the stately Cake House in Unity.

This is a richly textured novel, about three generations ofremarkable women, and about the history of the town of Unity and mistakesthat can be corrected.  There’s no simple straight-line plot structure here, but an intricate, interwoven fabric of relationships and events and lives of characters who seem completely real.

Reviews of other books by Alice Hoffman:
The Story Sisters
Blackbird House
The Foretelling

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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