Flower Children is about four children growing up in a 1960s Hippie household. The author, Maxine Swann, based the book on her childhood.
Let me get what I did not like about the book out of the way. Ms. Swann tells the story through loosely-connected short stories. The book is not portrayed as such, which bothered me a bit. Also, some information is repeated, again emphasizing the lack of coherence in the story. The narration alternates between the third person and the first person and thus prevents the anchoring of the story on one particular character. The author might have intended this method to reflect the Hippie environment but I would have preferred a more conventional approach. This would have allowed the reader to get to know one of the children really well.
Now to what I liked. Flower Children is the first book about Hippies families, parenting and childhood that I’ve read. I am amazed at how Ms. Swann serves this seminal moment in American culture up with the most sparse, hauntingly beautiful and relaxed prose. The characters in the book are really interesting. The four children, as they progress from adolescence to adulthood, negotiate an existence between their unconventional and uninhibited parental home and the more traditional larger world. Their father, whose habits rooted in the Hippies belief of free love, loses the love his life, their mother. The father, despite all his failings, is perhaps the most loving father I’ve encountered in all my reading. Their stuck-up maternal grandmother who is incapable of seeing and accepting their mother. Their crazy paternal grandfather, who squanders both the family’s fortune and his own genius on equally crazy inventions.
Yet the manner in which the book is written left me yearning for more. Ultimately, although the individual stories were wonderful, the novel itself as a whole was not as satisfying as it could have been. But I have to say again that the writing is beautiful.