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 been exposed to things other children have not seen and it makes them uncomfortable, their coming-of-age no less transformative. “At school, we felt funny and kept our heads down…Mostly everyone else went to church…had TVs in their house, and guns, and in the fall went hunting, and their parents dressed up for parents’ meetings.” From the chapter titled Return, “Certain things make sense now. Others are still baffling. They pick up a book that baffles and intrigues them, D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, and suddenly it makes sense. Suddenly all kinds of things make sense. And others still don’t and never will.”
Beautifully written, Flower Children is a nice alternative to our current fascination with damaging childhood stories like The Glass Castle, A Child Called It, and All Over But the Shoutin’. While the children’s parents are certainly eccentric, and often leave their children exasperated, they are nothing if not loved. And that, I believe, makes all the difference.