QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
“They’ll create a new world—one that has no relation to the world they have known—in which nothing is lied about, whispered about, and nothing is ever concealed.” (p. 6)
Maxine Swann’s Flower Children is the intimate, shocking, funny, heartrending, and exultant story of four children growing up in rural Pennsylvania, the offspring of devout hippies who turned their backs on Ivy League education in favor of experiments in communal living and a whole new world for their children.
For Maeve, Lu, Tuck, and Clyde, childhood is a blur of exploration and adventure. It is the 1970s, and their parents have embraced communal living and absolute honesty. A swing hangs in the middle of the living room. The children run free all day, dance naked in the rain, climb apple trees, ride ponies, press their faces into showers of leaves, rub mud all over their bodies and sit out in the sun to let it dry. When their parents invite other adults for skinny-dipping in the creek, the children memorize all the body parts to discuss later among themselves.
The children, in turn, find themselves impossibly at odds with their surroundings and the rural community of which they are a part, both delighted and unnerved by a life without limits. First their parents split, bringing new lovers into the family, and then puberty hits, and suddenly the ground seems to shift, and the children realize their freedoms have not come without cost to their innocence.
Haunting and celebratory by turns, Swann’s beautifully written book is both an unforgettable portrayal of a unique generation and culture, and a luminous coming-of-age story, vividly capturing the universal longings, sorrows, and joys of childhood.
ABOUT MAXINE SWANN
Maxine Swann has been awarded Ploughshares’ Cohen Award for best fiction of the year, an O. Henry Award, and a Pushcart Prize, and her work has been included in The Best American Short Stories of 1998 and 2006. Her first novel, Serious Girls, was published in 2003. Swann, who has lived in Paris and Pakistan, now lives in Buenos Aires.