Picks and Pans Review: The Probable Future

UPDATED 08/11/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/11/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

By Alice Hoffman

The women in Jenny Sparrow's family possess special gifts. An ancestor, Rebecca Sparrow, who was persecuted as a witch in 18th-century Massachusetts, was immune to physical pain. Jenny's mother can detect lies, and Jenny can see other people's dreams. Now Jenny's 13-year-old daughter Stella has discovered her own gift: She can foresee deaths.

As she did in Practical Magic, Hoffman finds a lot of girl power in the occult. Her plot is bewitching, in spite of a few cloying moments and a clutter of subplots. Too many characters clamor for attention, and the most interesting thread—Stella's visions—sometimes gets lost in the jumble. Still, the imagery is bursting with life, and the story—by turns dark, tender and ultimately redemptive, as a fairy tale should be—makes for a diverting read. (Doubleday, $24.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Practically magic

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