When the women in the Sparrow family reach thirteen, they develop a unique ability. In young Stella Sparrow's case, the gift, which is both a blessing and a curse, turns out to be the ability to see a person's probable future- When Stella foresees a gruesome murder, she tells her charming, feckless father about it, but too late. The murder has already been committed and suspicion falls on him. Her mother Jenny, can read other people's dreams, but sometimes misinterprets them, to her own cost. Stella has to hide out with her grandmother, Elinor (who can always tell a liar but is more interested in hybrid roses than humanity). A widow, she lives alone in curious Cake House, close by the overgrown woods and the hour-glass lake where 300 years ago Rebecca Sparrow, a washergirl with a deadly gift, was drowned. In Unity, Mass., families go back years, and the same prejudices and mistakes are recycled over generations. Stella herself brings light and irreverent curiosity to this closed world (and falls in love), but the dark thread of the past meets the sinister trail of contemporary murder in the frightening climax to this enthralling tale. Hoffman unlocks the caskets of family life and the secret history of a community, in a gripping story about young love and old love, about making choices - usually the wrong ones - about foresight and consequences, all suffused with the haunting scent of phlox and roses, wisteria and peach blossom, and the hum of bees.
"Magical and entertaining; at times positively bewitching... That Hoffman is a highly capable storyteller is in no doubt. Hoffman's latest novel possesses the irresistible quality of a compelling fairytale for adults" * Scotland on Sunday * "A great atmospheric storyteller... Her books are a real pleasure" * Kate Atkinson * "Like her contemporaries, Carol Shields and Alice Munro, Hoffman has an acute yet tender eye for detail... Hoffman writes with heartbreaking clarity" * The Times * "An enchanting page-turner of a novel... Charming, utterly absorbing and very enjoyable, this book will leave you wanting move" * Big Issue * "Alice Hoffman is a daring and able writer; she plots conjunctions of mundane and magical events with such ease that the reader never doubts her word" * New Yorker *