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The Probable Future    by Alice Hoffman order for
Probable Future
by Alice Hoffman
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Alice Hoffman has outdone herself this time. The Probable Future is a breathtaking book, with a startling insight into the human psyche. The author's depictons of nature are so beautiful as to bring tears to the eye. But make no mistake. Hoffman is not a timid writer. Her story hits home and hits hard. That she can combine the delicacy of her prose with the meat of her story is a tribute to her talent. The women protagonists are in part ethereal, but also tough minded and determined.

For three hundred years, only girls have been born into the Sparrow family. On each child's thirteenth birthday, a special gift is bestowed on her. One could feel no pain. Another could always tell a liar. Yet another could see into someone's dreams. Stella has been given the gift of seeing a person's 'probable future'. Her ability lands her father in jail when Stella predicts the murder of a woman she sees in a restaurant and he reports this to the local police. When the woman is later found with her throat slit, Stella's dad is accused.

The writing in The Probable Future is tight and flows as easily and surely as the streams in this New England town. The characterizations are a real treat. The reader can almost see his/her self - or at least someone they know - in the players. Most compelling, though, are the relationships between mothers and daughters. I could truly identify with this, as I have two daughters. And the paragraphs on death helped to heal that sore place in my own heart a little bit. What a sensitive writer is Alice Hoffman.

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