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From an award-winning writer: an elegant, lively, moving novel that portrays the strangely celebrated and unsupervised childhood of four hippie offspring in the seventies and eighties. When Flower Children's first chapter was published as a short story in 1997, it announced the arrival of a new literary voice: it won every literary prize applicable (the Ploughshares' Cohe From an award-winning writer: an elegant, lively, moving novel that portrays the strangely celebrated and unsupervised childhood of four hippie offspring in the seventies and eighties. When Flower Children's first chapter was published as a short story in 1997, it announced the arrival of a new literary voice: it won every literary prize applicable (the Ploughshares' Cohen Award, the O. Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize) and was included in the 1998 Best American Short Stories. Now, Maxine Swann expands and continues that story, bringing its four sibling characters through to the other end of childhood, in a much-anticipated book that only Swann could write. Based on the author's own family, Flower Children is the amusing, moving, beautifully painted story of four children growing up in rural Pennsylvania, the offspring of devoutly hippie parents. Impossibly at odds with their surroundings, the children find themselves both delighted and unnerved by a life without limits. A swing hangs in the middle of the living room. The children run free all day, dance naked in the rain, and go riding on ponies with the boys who live up the road. But as their childhood is celebrated, the freedoms their parents have given them have also compromised their innocence. In time, their world starts to collapse. The parents split. Puberty hits. The children are mortified by what they know and have seen. They long for structure, normalcy, restraint: the very things their parents have avoided. Haunting and celebratory by turns, Flower Children is at once a portrait of childhood's unbridled joy and the story of a unique generation. Ann Patchett recently selected another excerpt of the novel to appear in the 2006 Best American Short Stories.


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From an award-winning writer: an elegant, lively, moving novel that portrays the strangely celebrated and unsupervised childhood of four hippie offspring in the seventies and eighties. When Flower Children's first chapter was published as a short story in 1997, it announced the arrival of a new literary voice: it won every literary prize applicable (the Ploughshares' Cohe From an award-winning writer: an elegant, lively, moving novel that portrays the strangely celebrated and unsupervised childhood of four hippie offspring in the seventies and eighties. When Flower Children's first chapter was published as a short story in 1997, it announced the arrival of a new literary voice: it won every literary prize applicable (the Ploughshares' Cohen Award, the O. Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize) and was included in the 1998 Best American Short Stories. Now, Maxine Swann expands and continues that story, bringing its four sibling characters through to the other end of childhood, in a much-anticipated book that only Swann could write. Based on the author's own family, Flower Children is the amusing, moving, beautifully painted story of four children growing up in rural Pennsylvania, the offspring of devoutly hippie parents. Impossibly at odds with their surroundings, the children find themselves both delighted and unnerved by a life without limits. A swing hangs in the middle of the living room. The children run free all day, dance naked in the rain, and go riding on ponies with the boys who live up the road. But as their childhood is celebrated, the freedoms their parents have given them have also compromised their innocence. In time, their world starts to collapse. The parents split. Puberty hits. The children are mortified by what they know and have seen. They long for structure, normalcy, restraint: the very things their parents have avoided. Haunting and celebratory by turns, Flower Children is at once a portrait of childhood's unbridled joy and the story of a unique generation. Ann Patchett recently selected another excerpt of the novel to appear in the 2006 Best American Short Stories.

30 review for Flower Children

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Here’s a pet peeve I have about books: when bland, sparse writing is misinterpreted by reviewers as “lucid and touching” or “stunning and wistful.” I think simple, bare-bones writing can be absolutely beautiful and moving - let’s think about Annie Dillard or Ernest Hemingway - but I also think that minimalism is an easy trick some writers use to make us think that they’ve put a lot of work into something. Sure, Annie Dillard tends to write thin, spare books, but she puts love into each and every Here’s a pet peeve I have about books: when bland, sparse writing is misinterpreted by reviewers as “lucid and touching” or “stunning and wistful.” I think simple, bare-bones writing can be absolutely beautiful and moving - let’s think about Annie Dillard or Ernest Hemingway - but I also think that minimalism is an easy trick some writers use to make us think that they’ve put a lot of work into something. Sure, Annie Dillard tends to write thin, spare books, but she puts love into each and every sentence and you can feel that. There’s a lot of work hidden backstage. It kills me to read it, every word is so carefully and well chosen. It also killed my to read Flower Children by Maxine Swann, but in the bad way. The novel - which is a series of connected short stories about four children growing up with hippie parents - has the appearance of being one of those sparsely beautiful books that read like long poems (which is why I checked it out of the library). It is small and short with big print and lots of white space. But. The writing just isn’t there. Here’s an excerpt, describing the school one of the girls attended: “Our school was a low brick building with a flag out front and a playground behind. In the halls there was a yellowish light. From the classroom, you could look out and see the cars in the parking lot or a wavering patch of grass… The dining hall was furnished with linoleum tables with similar benches attached. We had hot meals on trays with depressed surfaces in them, each to hold a portion of something. The women who worked in the dining hall wore nets over their hair.” Yes, the language and sentence structures are simple and clean. But it isn’t saying anything interesting. In fact, it’s about the most bland, generic description of a school I can think of. It doesn’t read like “touching prose,” it reads like she wrote the first thing she thought of. Now imagine two hundred pages of that. None of it made me feel anything - the book failed the gut-check.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenifer

    I was looking so forward to reading this book but it was a major letdown. I wanted to feel the hippie spirit when I read this book and really escape to a this simple time where free love and open thinking ruled a family. Instead, I was met with a rather boring tale of a sister relating snippets of her childhood that didn't seem too far from normal. There was little hippie behavior actually described in the story. The Dad farts in the car and that is supposed to represent the life of a bohemian? I was looking so forward to reading this book but it was a major letdown. I wanted to feel the hippie spirit when I read this book and really escape to a this simple time where free love and open thinking ruled a family. Instead, I was met with a rather boring tale of a sister relating snippets of her childhood that didn't seem too far from normal. There was little hippie behavior actually described in the story. The Dad farts in the car and that is supposed to represent the life of a bohemian? Wow! Real crazy! It only took me a day to read so at least I didn't invest too much time on it. I felt like the story never really began. It was like the whole book was just a synopsis.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I highly recommend Maxine Swann's Flower Children. It's a very quick read - less a novel than interlocking short stories about children raised by hippie parents. The narrative voice ranges from chapter to chapter - from the plural (we) to a third person narrator to the voice of one of the daughters, and though this kind of transition usually bugs me, it works here. The book follows the children through adolescence - each chapter lights on an event or a significant moment. Swann has an elegant sp I highly recommend Maxine Swann's Flower Children. It's a very quick read - less a novel than interlocking short stories about children raised by hippie parents. The narrative voice ranges from chapter to chapter - from the plural (we) to a third person narrator to the voice of one of the daughters, and though this kind of transition usually bugs me, it works here. The book follows the children through adolescence - each chapter lights on an event or a significant moment. Swann has an elegant spare style that works beautifully in the first and concluding chapters that focus on the children and the landscape surrounding their home, but as she expands her vision to include other family members in the story, she is less sucessful at capturing that sense of the significant moment or important transition. Still, her failures are noble ones. I really admired the way she captured the way images of our younger selves erupt through the gaps of our memories like mountains in a mist. What I liked best is there is no sense of passing judgement on any character - a lesser sensibility would have made a 'look how my hippie parents neglected me and fucked me up' kind of book. The character of the father, esp, who really is a mess and declines as the story progresses, is drawn humourously and sympathetically.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    I read a review of this book in the NY Times and thought "oh boy! the kind of book I like about funny, quirky families!" No. It turned out to be about a weird, not at all funny family. It's based on the author's experience growing up, and sheesh, I'm glad I'm not her. It's short, so I made myself finish it in hopes that it would grow on me, but alas, I disliked it to the last word. And speaking of words...no offense to the author, but yeeks the writing was bad. Like the paper I wrote the morning I read a review of this book in the NY Times and thought "oh boy! the kind of book I like about funny, quirky families!" No. It turned out to be about a weird, not at all funny family. It's based on the author's experience growing up, and sheesh, I'm glad I'm not her. It's short, so I made myself finish it in hopes that it would grow on me, but alas, I disliked it to the last word. And speaking of words...no offense to the author, but yeeks the writing was bad. Like the paper I wrote the morning it was due for my eight grade science class bad.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    i read this back when it first came out and for the longest time recently i'd been trying to figure out what the title was. i only remembered a few little snippets and it took nearly a year to figure out that it was this one that i was thinking of. i really loved it. it's about the mysteries of childhood, and growing up with hippies for parents in a time when it wasn't "cool" anymore. lu, maeve, tuck and clyde live primarily with their mother in rural pennsylvania in a house with four stories and i read this back when it first came out and for the longest time recently i'd been trying to figure out what the title was. i only remembered a few little snippets and it took nearly a year to figure out that it was this one that i was thinking of. i really loved it. it's about the mysteries of childhood, and growing up with hippies for parents in a time when it wasn't "cool" anymore. lu, maeve, tuck and clyde live primarily with their mother in rural pennsylvania in a house with four stories and dirt floors and a swing in the middle of the living room. their parents split when they were all pretty young and they sometimes go and stay with their dad in washington, d.c. their dad, sam, is extremely unconventional, even for a hippy. he's a little lost, a little broken, he misses their mom a lot and he always talks about the most inappropriate things with the children. both their mom and dad date a lot of other lost souls and the kids kind of learn how to be quiet and take everything in, and in a lot of ways end up being smarter than their parents. i loved the rural atmosphere, and the descriptions of the creek and the pastures with the ponies and goats and all the beautiful plants. i loved how much time the kids spent outside, exploring and playing with their friends. and the ending was very beautiful, and i feel that anyone who feels nostalgia for their childhood will certainly appreciate it. ♥ basically, all four of the kids go back to their childhood home and discover places they never knew existed, and resdiscover places they knew and loved. it was just gorgeous.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

    I was expecting something different from this novel. It's really more a collection of short stories about a group of siblings who have a bit of freedom to explore and live in a rural area, but that's true of many children who wouldn't be called flower children. Apparently the first chapter or story was published on its own. If the rest of the book had been more like that chapter (and the last, both of which I liked the most), I probably would have given this book 4 or 5 stars. It was good, for w I was expecting something different from this novel. It's really more a collection of short stories about a group of siblings who have a bit of freedom to explore and live in a rural area, but that's true of many children who wouldn't be called flower children. Apparently the first chapter or story was published on its own. If the rest of the book had been more like that chapter (and the last, both of which I liked the most), I probably would have given this book 4 or 5 stars. It was good, for what it was. It is a middle of the road book that'd give a report card grade of a solid B. It wasn't great, but it was a nice short, casual read. The ending (or last chapter/story) was quite good and it's often how I feel about the book when finishing that really sets the tone for how I end up feeling about it over all. So, I was left with a dreamy sort of feeling that made me think of my own childhood, which was quite different than that of the children in the book, though I too was given a bit of freedom to roam.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    I found this odd little book while wandering the fiction stacks. Written very simply and often in 1st person plural POV, it's a novel based on the author's childhood. So, it's basically a memoir, but I'm assuming she took some poetic license with events and changed all the names. For instance, some of the chapters are written in 1st person singular from the perspective of "Maeve," which I'm assuming is a substitution for Maxine. In the beginning, the children live a carefree life with their blue I found this odd little book while wandering the fiction stacks. Written very simply and often in 1st person plural POV, it's a novel based on the author's childhood. So, it's basically a memoir, but I'm assuming she took some poetic license with events and changed all the names. For instance, some of the chapters are written in 1st person singular from the perspective of "Maeve," which I'm assuming is a substitution for Maxine. In the beginning, the children live a carefree life with their blueblood-turned-hippie parents, but as they get older, they begin to realize that their parents are odd and try to fit in as they start school. Then their father moves to "the city" and their parents eventually divorce and eclectic boyfriends and girlfriends parade through their lives. Their father is a little unhinged, their mother is a bit spacey, and you can't help but feel sorry for these kids who are basically left to figure everything out on their own. It's all a little monotonous, though, and the chapters feel like each was written separately, because there are overlaps and jumps that don't always make sense. (In one chapter, the children scare off their father's girlfriend, then in the next chapter she's back without any explanation. And she's referred to later as if she hadn't already been a prominent character.) My favorite chapters were in the middle of the book when the children visit their grandparents on both sides of the family. Those two chapters have a very Wes Anderson vibe -- from their paternal grandparents who live in a kind of eccentric squalor with various random people all living in the estate, but none really making money -- to their maternal grandmother who still observes cocktail hour and hopes that someday her daughter will marry a more suitable (read: rich & conventional) man. Overall: a quirky, quick read, suitable for summer reading.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I really enjoyed the descriptive writing. I was disappointed by the plot which never really went anywhere. It starts out with a wonderful description of little hippie children running around in a natural setting with no rules. As they grew up, the plot never really took them through any transformations. A fast enjoyable read none-the-less.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    Coming of age of four children from a "hippie" family, In this case, I think "hippie" is code for "dysfunctional." Not particularly compelling, except for a beautiful final chapter about the process of growing up, universally experienced.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Heaether

    I don't know, I found this book to be endearing and wistful. An excellent protrayal of viewing the adult world through a child's eye and the bittersweet emotions associated with growing up and seeing said adults in a new light with new understanding.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maia

    I've just gotten 5 big boxes of books from the old house and it's thrilling to discover so many of the ones I loved reading then--but Flower Children just isn't one of them. I remember I received it as a pre pub from friends in publishing, and I'd tried to feel the writing without impact from the hype around it, but it was near impossible. Maxine Swann is actually a pretty good writer and her other book, Serious Girls, struck me as better than this one, but overall the problem here is that to me I've just gotten 5 big boxes of books from the old house and it's thrilling to discover so many of the ones I loved reading then--but Flower Children just isn't one of them. I remember I received it as a pre pub from friends in publishing, and I'd tried to feel the writing without impact from the hype around it, but it was near impossible. Maxine Swann is actually a pretty good writer and her other book, Serious Girls, struck me as better than this one, but overall the problem here is that to me she's not a) as good a writer as she believes herself and is hyped up to be and b) maybe because the expectation is higher than the talent, a lot of the writing goes flat. The idea behind the writing--kids brought up by narcissistic, blind hippie parents--is actually far more interesting that anything OF interest that her writing has to say on the subject, and that's where the entire enterprise seems doomed. I always had--and still have--the feeling that reviewers find Swann's background and life story (plus the fact that she's pretty and photographs well) so fascinating that they either overlook a sort of basic mediocrity or simply take less for more from it. On her mother's side, Maxine Swann comes from a certain kind of 'high' NY family residing like people in an Edith Whartom novel (they probably did, way back then, anyway) but her mother, typically baby boomer, rebelled and ran off to be a hippie, with enough obsession to continue hippiedom even after it's sell-by date. This is the context fot Swann's childhood, later on even more individualized by fancy prep schools and fancy ivy league colleges, plus years in Paris, married to an Argentine and now even an expat in Buenos Aires. It all makes for wonderful copy--how disappointing, then, that at times this is all it is, really: smart copy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I was intrigued by the cover of this book. I grew up during the same era, and the picture of the children playing (in 70's attire) took me back to my childhood. This is a fictionalized account of Swann's childhood growing up with two Harvard-educated hippies as parents. She and her siblings had no discipline, no rules. Their parents grew pot underneath the kitchen sink. A swing hung from the ceiling. The story follows the four children from early childhood through the middle school years as they I was intrigued by the cover of this book. I grew up during the same era, and the picture of the children playing (in 70's attire) took me back to my childhood. This is a fictionalized account of Swann's childhood growing up with two Harvard-educated hippies as parents. She and her siblings had no discipline, no rules. Their parents grew pot underneath the kitchen sink. A swing hung from the ceiling. The story follows the four children from early childhood through the middle school years as they begin to come of age. Their parents divorce, subsequent lovers, and visits to their wealthy (and very different) grandparents' homes all add to the children's view of the world and their view of their parents as well. I enjoyed this book. However, the switching back and forth between first and third person points of view was distracting. I'd love to know what became of the children and their parents in later years. (You know it's a good story when you are left wondering what happened later.)

  13. 4 out of 5

    AP

    Some of Swann's writing is really beautiful, but some of it seems deliberately quaint or opaque. I bought the book very excitedly and even gave a copy as a gift, because I read the short story "Flower Children" that starts the "novel in stories" (what is that?) in 1997 and was still thinking about it 10 years later. I think that "FC" is the best story in the book, and part of what contributes to the weakness of the other stories is the extent to which the seem drawn out of FC, attempts to fill u Some of Swann's writing is really beautiful, but some of it seems deliberately quaint or opaque. I bought the book very excitedly and even gave a copy as a gift, because I read the short story "Flower Children" that starts the "novel in stories" (what is that?) in 1997 and was still thinking about it 10 years later. I think that "FC" is the best story in the book, and part of what contributes to the weakness of the other stories is the extent to which the seem drawn out of FC, attempts to fill up a marketable book drawn from the successful whimsy of the title story. Some of her language is beautiful, though.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Adele

    I got the creepiest sense of deja vu when reading a particular chapter of this book, before I realized I'd read the section before, in the 2006 edition of Best American Short Stories. This book is little, and I read it over the course of two days, which can be very nice once in a while. It's about a family of four children, two boys and two girls growing up hippie style in the hills of Pennsylvania. I really like Swann's style of prose, which is that of a preternaturally wise child. Her descript I got the creepiest sense of deja vu when reading a particular chapter of this book, before I realized I'd read the section before, in the 2006 edition of Best American Short Stories. This book is little, and I read it over the course of two days, which can be very nice once in a while. It's about a family of four children, two boys and two girls growing up hippie style in the hills of Pennsylvania. I really like Swann's style of prose, which is that of a preternaturally wise child. Her descriptions of physical places are gauzy and dreamlike without being overdone or boring. She also nails the high points and pitfalls of children growing up in a radical free-love post sixties family.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jill Christie

    Thanks to Betsy and Heather, I picked this book for my Book Club. Overall consensus was that it was enjoyable, but should have been a short story. I thought it was well written and provided an entertaining glimpse into the strange lives of the hippy culture. The last chapter, when Maeve and her siblings returned to their childhood home as adults, was so beautifully written and poignant. I was only sorry I wasn't reading it in the privacy of my own home; lots of tears amongst strangers in the wai Thanks to Betsy and Heather, I picked this book for my Book Club. Overall consensus was that it was enjoyable, but should have been a short story. I thought it was well written and provided an entertaining glimpse into the strange lives of the hippy culture. The last chapter, when Maeve and her siblings returned to their childhood home as adults, was so beautifully written and poignant. I was only sorry I wasn't reading it in the privacy of my own home; lots of tears amongst strangers in the waiting room of my daughter's ballet studio...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    A lovely, quick-reading, book!

  17. 4 out of 5

    d Kate dooley

    Flower Children goes on the shelf next to Nancy Peacock's Life Without Water. I loved this book. It's the kind of story that doesn't follow any formula, just as life doesn't.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lilli Cohen

    Swan's style of writing reminds me of my own - done with broad strokes, heartfelt ideas, words to the touch, and long winded moments. It's entirely mesmerizing to read and experience. It was a slow-paced read at first, but picked up towards the end. It's the timeless tale of childhood and becoming yourself in a world pressured by assimilation, led by '70s nuanced hippie adults and thought-provoking children. I found myself in this book - shocked in an instant by the harsh reality of the world in Swan's style of writing reminds me of my own - done with broad strokes, heartfelt ideas, words to the touch, and long winded moments. It's entirely mesmerizing to read and experience. It was a slow-paced read at first, but picked up towards the end. It's the timeless tale of childhood and becoming yourself in a world pressured by assimilation, led by '70s nuanced hippie adults and thought-provoking children. I found myself in this book - shocked in an instant by the harsh reality of the world in the second-to-last chapter. This book led me blind with wonder and majesty, shaking me to my core. I will recommend it to anyone with ears.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This was a quick easy read, and not quite what I expected. It follows a family with four children through their sort of "free range" upbringing in the 70's and 80's on the east coast somewhere. Seems a little late in the decades to be called Flower Children. More like the parents were the Flower Children. At any rate, it did have that vibe and was fun to read about that kind of life and how the kids eventually grow a bit older and question how they've been raised.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mia

    This is one of the saddest and most disgusting books I have ever read. To be honest, I didn't finish it but I continued as long as I could, which was far longer than I wanted. It is not the book I thought I was going to read. I thought it was going to be a book about a loving, free spirited family - not a book where the children were used and abused. I don't doubt this author's talent but this was not the book for me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Raeanne Williams

    I loved all of the stories. Some of them are so cute and bittersweet, others are heartbreaking and it’s produces such a mix of emotions. I found it so easy to connect with most of the main 4 children but there were a few spots I was confused by all of the characters. Overall this was such a wonderful and bittersweet novel, it will be remaining on my shelf for a very long time!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Debby Author

    2.5 stars This was a hard one for me because I so wanted to like it. However, it seemed like a short story that had just been lengthened to sell as a novel. The writing was lyrical but the story didn't go anywhere. It felt sparse just for the sake of being artsy.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    2.5 stars, rounded up very poorly written. It slips in and out of first and third person which I found confusing. there's plenty of language in it I didn't care for and I didn't like the ending. It won't be a keeper

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Harvey

    I really enjoyed this book. I found it pretty and contemplative and engaging.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I was expecting something similar to The Glass Castle or The Astor Orphan; but I was disappointed. The writing was disjointed, and the story never really drew me in.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Backus

    Very weird story

  27. 5 out of 5

    YoSafBridg

    Lu, Mauve, Tuck, and Clyde are children who live in a world all their own~a world of free love and free play and free questions and free answers created by their hippy-dippy-bohemian parents who want to hold nothing back from them. Flower Children by Maxine Swann is a novel told in separate short stories, something akin to Moral Disorder & Other Stories by Margaret Atwood or one of my all-time-favorites: Rhoda: a life in stories by Ellen Gilchrist but Flower Children is entirely unique to itself Lu, Mauve, Tuck, and Clyde are children who live in a world all their own~a world of free love and free play and free questions and free answers created by their hippy-dippy-bohemian parents who want to hold nothing back from them. Flower Children by Maxine Swann is a novel told in separate short stories, something akin to Moral Disorder & Other Stories by Margaret Atwood or one of my all-time-favorites: Rhoda: a life in stories by Ellen Gilchrist but Flower Children is entirely unique to itself, unencumbered by debt to those much accomplished novels (oh, if only i could be so unencumbered...) The foursome is raised in an unconventional household (their home dug into a hillside, with a swing in the living room...) in a rural Pennsylvania farming county, where the parents plan to be completely up front concerning all subjects~no matter what; and after their split the father seems to need more parenting than they do. They are left their freedom even when they seem to long for some constraints (and visiting their more conventional maternal grandmother offers them a taste of something foreign and almost exotic; though visiting their paternal grandparents offers a taste of where their father might have gained his unconventional outlook. If you are waiting to hear what happened to those children that were raised by the free-wheeling bohemian rule-eschewing parents of a more innocent time (as many amazon reviewers seemed to be~and as at least one publisher review led one to believe...) this may not be the novel for you; but it is a lyrical tale told by the oft-confused children of those parents told during their difficult, early coming of age period... I enjoyed it greatly, but i have often been told, with my own bohemian ways, i was born a generation too late... (though i have my own disagreements...)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    Good Reads Review - Flower Children by Amelia Thomas As children, they run in the meadows, they catch butterflies, they wade shoulder deep into mud puddles, they wait fervently for their father's visits, they watch their baby sitter smoke pot out of a hookah, and they forever dream. As teenagers, they have their first kisses, they smoke cigarettes, they wonder at all they know about sex and bodies, they devote themselves to their school work, and they continue to dream. This is they picture Maxine Good Reads Review - Flower Children by Amelia Thomas As children, they run in the meadows, they catch butterflies, they wade shoulder deep into mud puddles, they wait fervently for their father's visits, they watch their baby sitter smoke pot out of a hookah, and they forever dream. As teenagers, they have their first kisses, they smoke cigarettes, they wonder at all they know about sex and bodies, they devote themselves to their school work, and they continue to dream. This is they picture Maxine Swann paints about the "Flower Children;" children born in the 1960's to the hippie generation. Her short noveletta focuses particularly on the children of one family: Lu, Meave (who narrates most of the novel), Tuck, and Cyde. These kids celebrate the world of no limits their parents have created for them, but as they marvel in their childhood, their innocence is also altered, beginning with their parents' divorce and their first steps into puberty. This creates a need for balance and order, everything their parents have tried to avoid. The initial question Swann tries to answer is whatever happened to this generation of children? Her response is open to interpretation. Although I enjoyed this book, the moral of the story was unclear to me. Swann's style of writing is fully detailed, but the plot is vague. Chapters skip from early childhood, to middle school, to young adulthood. It is beautifully intricate, but at the end, you will find yourself questioning what the point is. I recommend this book for a rainy day, but it's not a book that you will be unable to put down.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    It happens to all library users sooner or later. A book, for reasons unknown, appears on your hold shelf and you have no idea when or why you requested it. This time it was Flower Children by Maxine Swann, and while I have no recollection of requesting it, I’m glad I did. Told in short story format by the children of devout hippies, Flower Children offers a glimpse into a culture where children are raised without limits and adults show little restraint. Interestingly, the children know they have It happens to all library users sooner or later. A book, for reasons unknown, appears on your hold shelf and you have no idea when or why you requested it. This time it was Flower Children by Maxine Swann, and while I have no recollection of requesting it, I’m glad I did. Told in short story format by the children of devout hippies, Flower Children offers a glimpse into a culture where children are raised without limits and adults show little restraint. Interestingly, the children know they have been exposed to things other children have not seen and it makes them uncomfortable, their coming-of-age no less transformative. “At school, we felt funny and kept our heads down…Mostly everyone else went to church…had TVs in their house, and guns, and in the fall went hunting, and their parents dressed up for parents’ meetings.” From the chapter titled Return, “Certain things make sense now. Others are still baffling. They pick up a book that baffled and intrigued them, D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, and suddenly it makes sense. Suddenly all kinds of things make sense. And others still don’t and never will.” Beautifully written, Flower Children is a refreshing alternative to our current fascination with damaging childhood stories like The Glass Castle, A Child Called It, and All Over But the Shoutin’. While the children’s parents were certainly eccentric, and often left their children exasperated, they were nothing if not loved. And that, I believe, made all the difference.

  30. 4 out of 5

    K.M. Soehnlein

    I've been a raving fan of "Flower Children," the title story of this collection, since I first read it in the Best American anthology years ago. It uses an uncommon third-person-plural narrator ("They're free to run anywhere they like whenever they like, so they do. .... They spend their whole life in trees... ") to depict the wild, idyllic, pastoral childhood of a group of siblings born to hippie parents. In that story Maxine Swann captures the magic of a moment of time that will not last, thou I've been a raving fan of "Flower Children," the title story of this collection, since I first read it in the Best American anthology years ago. It uses an uncommon third-person-plural narrator ("They're free to run anywhere they like whenever they like, so they do. .... They spend their whole life in trees... ") to depict the wild, idyllic, pastoral childhood of a group of siblings born to hippie parents. In that story Maxine Swann captures the magic of a moment of time that will not last, though its influence will endure. This book adds seven more linked stories to that original to further flesh out this world. Now the kids are not simply "they" but are individuals with names and unique characteristics. Their parents are detailed -- along with various lovers and relatives -- and episodes unfold like more conventional short stories, with flashes of epiphany at the end, lessons learned, insights gained. There's no bad writing here, but almost none of it excited me as much as the author's first daring creation. (My favorite of this batch is "Secret", the next-to-last story of the collection, in which the narrator, Maeve, age 12, learns to distinguish herself among a group of friends, many with big personalities, and to find her way to a first kiss with a troubled boy, new to town.) I imagine a reader coming fresh to this book might have a different experience, and I wouldn't discourage anyone interested in the contemporary short story, or the story cycle/linked story genre in particular, to give this a read.

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