cover image Flower Children

Flower Children

Maxine Swann, . . Riverhead, $21.95 (211pp) ISBN 978-1-59448-945-7

This wistful, episodic second novel by Swann (Serious Girls ) is made up of vignettes about four sibling "flower children" whose parents are Pennsylvania farm country back-to-the-land hippies. Swann portrays the free-floating '70s coming-of-age of these four siblings—Lu, Maeve (who narrates much of the novel), Tuck and Clyde—who delight in running freely in the countryside, but grow embarrassed by the unconventional practices of their politically active, casual-dressing parents. Their parents, Sam, a Harvard graduate, and Dee, a gardener and artist, built their own house, and though they aim to raise their children in an ideal world "in which nothing is lied about, whispered about, and nothing is ever concealed," the parents separate, and subsequent storylike chapters delineate their children's sometimes rocky confrontation with the world of TVs, junk food and schoolyard cliques. The parents' transient love interests make impressions on the children: Dee's live-in boyfriend, Bobby, avenges the shooting of the children's dogs by local hunters; later, the children set out to rid themselves of Sam's latest squeeze, a glamorous but dim-witted psychologist. Swann wisely forgoes childlike stream-of-consciousness narration in favor of lean, direct storytelling, a choice that makes this more substantial and rewarding than the vast majority of coming-of-age novels. (May)