"A work of stunning lyricism and intense originality"(Mary Gordon, author of Pearl). From an award-winning short story writer comes this spare, lively, moving novel, quickly embraced by critics and readers, portraying the strangely celebrated and unsupervised childhood of four hippie offspring in the 1970s and 80s. Based on the author's own upbringing, Flower Children tells the story of four children growing up in rural Pennsylvania, impossibly at odds with their surroundings. In time, as the sheltered utopia their parents have created begins to collapse, the children long for structure and restraint--and all their parents have avoided.
This wistful, episodic second novel by Swann (Serious Girls) is made up of vignettes about four sibling "flower children" whose parents are Pennsylvania farm country back-to-the-land hippies. Swann portrays the free-floating '70s coming-of-age of these four siblings--Lu, Maeve (who narrates much of the novel), Tuck and Clyde--who delight in running freely in the countryside, but grow embarrassed by the unconventional practices of their politically active, casual-dressing parents. Their parents, Sam, a Harvard graduate, and Dee, a gardener and artist, built their own house, and though they aim to raise their children in an ideal world "in which nothing is lied about, whispered about, and nothing is ever concealed," the parents separate, and subsequent storylike chapters delineate their children's sometimes rocky confrontation with the world of TVs, junk food and schoolyard cliques. The parents' transient love interests make impressions on the children: Dee's live-in boyfriend, Bobby, avenges the shooting of the children's dogs by local hunters; later, the children set out to rid themselves of Sam's latest squeeze, a glamorous but dim-witted psychologist. Swann wisely forgoes childlike stream-of-consciousness narration in favor of lean, direct storytelling, a choice that makes this more substantial and rewarding than the vast majority of coming-of-age novels. (May)
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July 02, 2008
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