Sunday, August 7, 2016

Review of "The Probable Future" by Alice Hoffman

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 grandmother Elinor - who can detect liars, her daughter Jenny - who can see people's dreams, and granddaughter Stella - who can see how people will die.

At the beginning of the story Jenny, her husband Will, and her daughter Stella are living in Cambridge, Massachusetts when 13-year-old Stella 'sees' that a woman is going to be murdered. Stella insists her father tell the police and when the woman is killed Will, having 'suspicious knowledge of the crime', is arrested for the murder. Stella's parents ship her off to Unity to protect her from the real killer and Jenny soon joins her there.

There is conflict in the family because Jenny, who had been neglected by her grieving mother Elinor, ran off to marry her ne'er do well, lying, cheating boyfriend Will when she was seventeen; and Stella feels smothered and controlled by Jenny. In the course of the story we learn a lot about the history of the Sparrow women (one of whom was drowned as a witch), which is interesting. There are also a variety of additional characters who help round out the tale but don't really 'pop' off the page. As Jenny and Stella settle into Unity several couples fall in love or admit their love, which - in fairy tale fashion - is beneficial to their lives. In this book at least love cures a lot of ills.

I thought the initial premise of the book was intriguing but before long the story bogged down for me and I found that I didn't particularly like most of the characters. In fact some of the characters are so self-absorbed and oblivious and others are so self-effacing that I didn't much care what happened to them. Though skillfully written this book is more of a miss than a hit for me.

Rating: 3 stars

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