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Monday, February 16, 2015

The Florist's Daughter by Patricia Hampl


 

I left this place (St. Paul) “a provincial capital of the middling sort” (in Gogol’s words), as a callow young teacher, never to return. Left it for a small rural crossroads, in Bluff Country, married there, raised a family and now live there in mostly contented retirement. Award winning author, Patricia Hampl, has remained in St. Paul all her life, rooted to the city of her birth in the “blameless middle” of America. Her latest memoir, The Florists Daughter, tells the intriguing story of her relationship with her parents, the city of her birth and her desire to escape it and them. It culminated with the realization, sitting by the bedside of her dying mother, as to why she chose to remain there all her life. The Florists Daughter was highly recommended to me by two dear friends. Partly, I'm sure, because there are many allusions to places I knew intimately, as a child growing up. For instance, as Hampl reflects on her life and the influences of parent and place on that life, she was sitting at the hospital beside her dying mother. It turns out to be the very hospital in which I was born.
I'm not very familiar with the genre "memoirs." So, perhaps, I was expecting a literary version of a "chick flick." Not to be. Hampl, who is a Professor of English Literature at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota, takes on far deeper issues. I suspect that is why the critics love her writing which also includes poetry and essays.
It's probably sacrilege to compare the fundamental premise of this book to a trashy novel like The Bridges of Madison County but it comes to mind. Francesca Johnson is a romantic stereotype of dreams and disillusionment. Patricia Hampl seems torn between two incompatible and unfathomable choices.  Yet both protagonists make the choice of what now are identified as "traditional values." Still, the Hampls  memoir is deeply rich into the self and human values.    That is surely  the difference between literature and trash. I liked this memoir a lot.

9 comments:

Midlife Roadtripper said...

I have to go back and look at my lists, but I believe I've read work by Hampl before. Memoir can be rather interesting if it includes universal themes all can click with. The Minnesota connection offering one of those clicks. Will look into it for my reading lists.

Arkansas Patti said...

I am a fan of memoirs when well done. Like you said, it does help if the local is one you are familiar with if not the person. I will check it out. Thanks.

Arkansas Patti said...

Oops, that should read "locale".

Far Side of Fifty said...

Sounds more interesting than the book my other brother sent over for me to read...Orbit....sounds spacey to me. Hope you are staying warm as the whole Arctic seems to have sent us its leftover cold:( Global Warming ????

Montanagirl said...

It sounds like an interesting read!!

Carla from The River said...

This book sounds very interesting. I have read a few memoirs and I have enjoyed all of them.
Thank you for the review on this one.
Carla

Retired English Teacher said...

I love memoirs. I will have to put this one on my list.

Sarah Laurence said...

I admire you for branching beyond your reading comfort zone into new genres. I often say I dislike memoirs but I've loved some too. When they are good they are really really good, and when they are bad, they are horrid. It must have been fun to discover one that recalls your childhood home. I love your reviews; I'm so glad you're joining our book review club!

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Thanks, that sounds interesting. I find memoirs and biographies a nice jumping point for delving into history. I do much better at Jeopardy since listening to "Jefferson, the art of power".