The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman – A little magic, practically speaking.

July 5, 2011 at 9:37 pm 2 comments

The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman

This is a good summer, simple read (published in 2003).

So I should start with a confession, which is also a disclaimer. I am a sucker for a small town New England setting. Ms. Hoffman is probably best known for her book “Practical Magic” which was then made into a really terrible movie. Well this girl has seen that really terrible movie multiple times  because the setting is really pretty and being a shallow person, pretty things go a long way for me.

“The Probable Future” is similar to “Practical Magic” in a few ways but not enough to make it seem like Hoffman did some recycling.  Set in fictitious Unity, Massachusetts, “The Probable Future”  is about a long line of women in the Sparrow family thought, by the small New England townies, to be witches.  Generation after generation, the Sparrow women live in the “Cake house” which has layer after layer of new additions and rooms, making it appear to be architecturally slathered together.  Each woman in the family births one daughter. Each daughter on her thirteenth birthday realizes a special power – inability to feel pain, an ability to go without sleep (new parents wish for this), an ability to tell if someone is lying, an ability to dream others’ dreams. The latest generation, Stella, can see how people will die.  Jenny Sparrow, Stella’s mother, had run away from the small town of Unity and married her childhood sweetheart Will in an attempt to lead a normal life.  Will turns out to be the liar his mother-in-law always claimed he was, but Jenny still clings to creating this normal life for Stella.  When Stella turns thirteen and realizes her gift life gets dangerous and complicated, landing Jenny and Stella right back in Unity and living in the Cake House with Elinor, Jenny’s cold and removed mother.

As Stella learns the story of her family’s history and who she is meant to be, Jenny learns that maybe Will wasn’t her true love after all and that the dreams she thought she had for her life really were not hers after all.  Of course with all of this character growth and learning going on, Elinor has to learn something too. She comes to grips with her loss of time with the people she loves and her isolation by giving up her dream of creating the perfect blue rose – though in my humble opinion, I think Hoffman’s attempt to reconcile all of this for Elinor is the shallowest and silliest part of the book.

This book reads like a modern fairytale but before you roll your eyes (for the third time) what I really love about Hoffman’s writing is her ability to describe the smells and sounds of the town, the people and even the water.   The story has to wrap up nicely with a touch of sentiment for the reader, making this a light and seemless read. But while Hoffman may not be a great writer, she is a good story-teller and sometimes that is all you really need – just a little pretty read.

(AND I would like to add – here is a picture of the kitchen from the “Practical Magic” movie.  My friend Roger has promised to build it for me…someday…)


Entry filed under: July 2011 reads. Tags: .

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin OR Navin Johnson gets a little big for his special purpose Black Girl White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates – A study of being too nice.

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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