"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Probable Future

TITLE: The Probable Future
AUTHOR: Alice Hoffman

I'm almost embarrassed to admit that this is my first Alice Hoffman, but what a great book I chose as my introduction to this author. I suppose it's what's called "magic realism," which is a suitable label. The narrative focuses on the long line of Sparrow women, a lineage dating back many generations to Rebecca Sparrow who could feel no pain. All were born in March and all have a gift. Jenny Sparrow can dream other people's dreams. Her mother, Elinor, can tell a lie from the truth. And Jenny's daughter, Stella, who just turned 13, can see how people die.

It's Stella's newfound talent that provides the emotional thrust of the story, and sets the plot in motion. Out to dinner with her father (a self-absorbed man who is estranged from her mother) to celebrate her birthday, Stella sees the murder of a woman in the restaurant. She tells her father, Will, and insists he do something. Will reports the premonition to the police, not mentioning Stella, and when the woman's body is found soon after, he's the prime suspect.

Estrangement runs through the book, mothers estranged from daughters, and lovers who never found each other. Is what Stella sees inevitable? Or is it a possible future, something that can be changed? Is there hope for Elinor and Jenny to reconcile? For Stella and Jenny to repair their strained relationship? For Jenny to come to terms with Will and for Will's brother, Matt, to realize the love he's never been able to have? Stella, eager to learn her family history, becomes the catalyst and as secrets about the Sparrow women come to light, the living Sparrow women learn what matters most.

Hoffman employs a omniscient narrator who tells as much or more than he or she shows the reader and it took me a while to get used to it. But soon enough, I was absorbed by the Sparrow family and the townspeople of Unity, MA, so much so that I didn't want to leave them.

Now I need to see what else Hoffman has written that strikes my fancy.