I do dearly love a little magical realism with my contemporary romance and women’s fiction, so when Alice Hoffman’s The Probable Future went on sale a while back I greedily snatched it up. Of course, I have no self control, so I was up until 3am reading it. I recommend you don’t start it in the evening!
Women in the Sparrow family are always born in March, when the weather is changing, when the world is unpredictable, when new life is stirring. And on her thirteenth birthday, each Sparrow woman receives an unusual gift:
[from the cover] 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 that she might not want to see.
In The Probable Future this vivid and intriguing cast of characters confronts a haunting past—and a very current murder—against the evocative backdrop of small-town New England. By turns chilling and enchanting, The Probable Future chronicles the Sparrows’s legacy as young Stella struggles to cope with her disturbing clairvoyance. Her potential to ruin or redeem becomes unbearable when one of her premonitions puts her father in jail, wrongly accused of homicide. Yet this ordeal also leads Stella to the grandmother she was forbidden to meet and to a historic family home full of talismans from her ancestors.
This book is women’s fiction at its purest. There are men. The men are important. But the reader is never invited to consider them as full humans away from their relationships to the focal characters, the women, even when Hoffman writes a scene from one of the men’s points of view. The women are fabulously well-developed. Elinor seems sympathetic at first while Jenny seems like a raving witch, and Stella a confused child, but as is true in real life, the more layers are peeled away—the bigger picture we get of each woman—the less clean those emotions are. Elinor made terrible mistakes. Jenny was confused. Stella is stubborn. Elinor was unfeeling. Jenny was greedy. Stella lies. But by the end, none of the negatives matter: you love these women and want desperately for them to succeed. The only bad thing I can say about this book is that I wanted another hundred pages so that I didn’t have to leave the characters.