By Maxine Swann
(Riverhead Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781594489457, 224pp.)
Publication Date: May 10, 2007
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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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' 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.