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Flower Children

2.77 of 5 stars 2.77  ·  rating details  ·  738 ratings  ·  168 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published May 10th 2007 by Riverhead Hardcover
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Community Reviews

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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...more
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?...more
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...more
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 offense to the author, but yeeks the writing was bad. Like the paper I wrote the morning...more
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...more
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...more
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.
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...more
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...more
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...more
Joseph Christy
My husband brought this home for me thinking it would be a quick fun read. Meh... I kept reading it since it was short and thought, surely any minute this will be worth it. It never was. And actually got worse the further you read. I wasn't sure how many children there were or who was who for quite some time. I kept thinking these lackluster events would lead to something or tie together, but they just kept stringing along one after the other. The best section was the adolescent years when they...more
Not a novel, but a small collection of related short stories. I do wish it had been billed as such, because there is a difference in reader expectations when starting a novel versus a novel that is a collection of linked individual stories. Not only the POV but also the style of each story is different (except for the first and last stories, which mirror each other) which further breaks up the cohesiveness one expects from a novel. It felt as if the author had a set of characters she was interes...more
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.
Beth Maddaus
This book was probably the worst book that I've read in years. I bought it after reading a New York Times article about Argentina by Maxine Swan and thought that because I enjoyed the article, her writing might appeal to me. It didn't. Don't waste your money or time on this one.
I was wandering thru the library waiting for my girls to finish choosing their books (they are too picky! I will read ANYTHING!), and I was in the children's section, and saw the newly purchased books. This book was there and I said to Kelsey, "you should read this." She glanced at it, "nah, not my type." So, I decided to read it myself. After all, the blurb on the back cover says it is a story about children of hippies growing up in the 70's and 80's, and I am a child of the 70's and 80's, howe...more
Dave Golombek
Maxine Swann has created a beautiful picture of an unusual childhood. This perhaps semi-autobiographical (several other Swann's are thanked in the aknowledgements) novel follows snippets of the young lives of the four children of a pair of aging hippies, largely revolving around their interactions with their parents. Raised in a household without boundaries or rules, the kids seek their own directions and the approval of the other children around them.

Despite the book's focus on the four childre...more
I have a real problem with this book being called fiction. There is no secret that this is based on her family - the author uses pseudonyms for herself and her siblings that are barely disguised alterations of their real names. It is clearly a book of stories about her own childhood and about real people, and yet the copyright page flatly denies this.

"This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or used fictitiously and any...more
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...more
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...more
Shonna Froebel
This novel follows the maturing of four children growing up in rural Pennsylvania with parents that can best be defined as hippies. The parents divorce when the children are quite young and the story moves back and forth between living with the mother, and her various boyfriends, in the countryside, and visiting the father, and his various girlfriends elsewhere. It takes into account the grandparents on the father's side, also somewhat of a hippie nature, with many people coming and going, no fo...more
Dale Houstman
I volunteer in a local library, and came upon this book as I was organizing the shelves one day. As a "child of the 60s" I am usually intrigued by books about the era, although they are usually non-fiction accounts. The idea of this book: the story of being brought up in a "hippie" family as told from the viewpoint of the children, struck me as worth a look. So I looked. I must say I was disappointed, as it reaffirmed many of my opinions of modern fiction: wan descriptions, a lack of concrete ev...more
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...more
I love hearing the stories of hippie kids who have grown up, how they look back on how they grew up and what it was like to have such freedom without boundaries. This is written as if it's a memoir, in the first person and the writing reminded me at times of a lot of "personal zines" I have read where you feel like the writer is talking to YOU, and telling YOU intimate details about their life, and yet in reading (those zines, and this book) I find myself wondering -- are you really telling ME Y...more
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 it...more
Casey Anderson
I did not enjoy this book. I though it would have more...depth. It was like watching someone's life through a parking lot black and white security camera. Grainy, distorted, you could hardly tell who was who. Often the names of the sisters were mixed up. The cover is 4 girls but the book is about 2 boys and 2 girls. In one scene, they ditch their dad's annoying, stupid bimbo girlfriend at a gas station. Later, in seemingly the same trip, some how the girlfriend was with them, and she was an inte...more
While the premise was what drew me in, the changing perspectives of the narrator threw me off quite a bit through this novel/memoir. The beginning was the best--what is it like for children to grow up with no rules? They quickly learn that while having fun at home with little to no parental supervision is great, to succeed and progress in the outside world, they need to follow all these rules and mannerisms they never were taught at home. But as the book progresses, it becomes chapter after chap...more
Jessica Banker
It was very interesting reading from the child's point of view, but I was not happy with how the writer rushed through to their adult life over the last 3-4 chapters. The book could have easily been broadened and I felt that the writer was in a rush to finish it, but didn't know how. I am not surprised that the author had previously made their living in the writing of short stories. The book felt a little like a large set of short stories, but there were a lot of gaps. A lot of areas that could...more
Did I enjoy it? Not so much. Was it the worst book I ever read. Uh not really, but it's not one I would really recommend. The book had serious potential, but sadly fell short.

The author rambled quite a bit and did not seem to be able to tell the story in any kind of order nor was she able to convey to you exactly who these children were. You get bits and pieces but not enough substance to say WOW.

What you gathered from the book was that their parents were college educated people who chose to l...more
Stephanie A.
Some beautiful writing (I especially loved the story about the hoarder grandparents' house), but also unnecessary descriptions of bodily functions and a distinct inability to understand what was happening most of the time.
Based on the author's own family, this book depicts the life of children who are being raised by hippie parents. Wild and free, the children's lives begin to change as they reach their teens.
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“Why replicate this world that has gone? Because it was so perfect? But it was not. But it was. Perfect because it was the world before the world changed.” 1 likes
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