Alice Hoffman is an amazing writer with a special talent of adding a little magic to the everyday. It's what makes you identify with her stories and care about her characters, even when things take a slightly fantastic turn.
In The Probable Future, we're introduced to the Sparrow Family, a line of women who receive a unique gift upon their 13th birthday. This gift, a special ability, seems to suit the recipient well, yet often leads to trouble when integrated into the outside world.
This is especially true for Stella, the youngest Sparrow, who's able to see how some people will die. Her desire to save people, coupled with this gift gets her into trouble, puts her dad in jail, and sets in motion the entire book.
Forced to leave her home in Boston, Stella is taken back to her mom's home town and a grandmother she's never met. The matriarch, Elinor, knows when you're lying. Jenny, Stella's mom, experiences other people's dreams alongside them. All three women end up at Cake House, in Unity, Mass., a town built upon the horrible death of a Sparrow ancestor, who couldn't feel pain.
It's a broken town, symbolized by the ancient, dying tree in the center square. Full of people who don't have what they need most, the rejoining of the Sparrow women helps transform the town. Inhabitants learn that destiny isn't something set in stone, that you have to take control of your own future to change it, and that sometimes, a very clear prediction is wrong.
If I could have read this whole book through in a single sitting, I would have. I loved everything about it: the New England backdrop, the depth of history, the complexity of emotions. Each character learns something so valuable by the end of the story - you feel proud to have seen into a little bit of their lives. In true Hoffman fashion, those who feel lost find their way, even if the path curved in some unexpected directions.
Read this. Read lots of Hoffman.
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