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Flower Children

2.79  ·  Rating details ·  911 Ratings  ·  196 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
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published May 10th 2007 by Riverhead Hardcover
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Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Oct 03, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 21, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bestof2007
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
Dec 15, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it
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 ...more
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
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
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.
Oct 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: summer07, novels
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
Jun 27, 2008 rated it liked it
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
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
d Kate dooley
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Debby Author
May 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
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.
Lisa Harvey
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I found it pretty and contemplative and engaging.
Oct 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
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.
May 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
May 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This short, purportedly semi-autobiographical novel-in-stories is about four siblings brought up by "Harvard-educated hippies" in rural Pennsylvania, 1970-1980s. Points of view change from chapter to chapter. Third person narratives, speaking at first of the four children as an amorphous grouping, later picking them out as individuals (though some more than others), are interspersed with chapters in first person by the second child, Maeve.

The children live with their mother on the farm, spending
K.M. Soehnlein
Apr 21, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Dec 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Shonna Froebel
Nov 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Elizabeth Lee
Nov 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biographical
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
Jul 28, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Dale Houstman
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 01, 2014 rated it liked it
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
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“And the heart gets watered and recovers itself. There is hope, everywhere there is hope.” 1 likes
“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.” 0 likes
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