Amy Feitelberg
July 02, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Sparrow women have unusual talents: Rebecca can’t feel pain, Jenny experiences others’ dreams, and Stella envisions how people will die. When Stella begs her father to help prevent a murder, he ends up the chief suspect. Hoffman sets The Probable Future, her 16th novel, in an ethereal world caught between modern-day New England and a 17th-century witch trial. While the story lacks dramatic tension — too many characters, not enough time to love them all — Hoffman’s lyrical prose again draws you in to the implausible (”She stayed with them like a leaf caught between branches…so translucent you could see right through into the next world”). Not quite as bewitching as 1995’s ”Practical Magic,” but still enchanting.

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