four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
32-Jan-Feb-2008
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0

A-The Florists DaughterIn this moving ode to her unassuming, working-class parents, Stan and Mary Hampl, memoirist Patricia Hampl revisits the past as she witnesses her mother's last moments. She recalls her timid, trusting Czech father, long since passed away, who imparted his florist's love of beauty and his eye for detail to his only daughter. She also recalls her chain-smoking, spitfire Irish mother, a librarian who encouraged Hampl to become a writer. Though mismatched, they loved each other deeply. Hampl also contemplates her mid-20th century childhood, her conflicted relationship with her outspoken mother, and her decision to remain in St. Paul, Minnesota, to care for her parents even as she imagines the sadness of finally becoming "nobody's daughter."
Harcourt. 240 pages. $24.00. ISBN: 0151012571

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"In her lovely, elliptical memoir of family and loss, Hampl brings her late mother and father back to life-then gently lays them to rest again. ... This beautiful bouquet of a book commemorates both." Jennifer Reese

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"No abuse, no trauma, no high drama of any kind, only a thoughtful and ardent tribute to a normal childhood in a middling city (St. Paul) in a middling state (Minnesota) with modest parents who gave their children the inestimable gifts of security and love. ... Her style moves easily from the high lyricism of wonder and delight to the unfooled coolness of irony and skepticism." Brigitte Frase

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"The result is electric and alive, containing a fire her mother would surely recognize and a beauty her father would approve. ... A conflicted daughter, a begrudging Midwesterner and a woman who has been besotted by illusions, Hampl proves that the material closest to home is often the richest." Danielle Trussoni

People Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"In a quietly stunning narrative that opens at her mother's deathbed, the author looks behind the self-effacing personas of Stanislaus Hampl, a romantic Czech who kept St. Paul's 'carriage trade' in flowers, and Mary Marum Hampl, a cynical Irishwoman who taught her how to spin a story, and offers up profound truths about the way her parents shaped her sensibilities." Michelle Green

Cleveland Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"She rethinks the photo albums and the facts, edging closer to understanding. Hampl is interested less in the chronology of her growing-up years in the mid-20th century than in those particular moments that have shaped her as an adult." Susan Grimm

Critical Summary

"Nothing is harder to grasp than the relentlessly modest life," observes Patricia Hampl, the award-winning author of several memoirs. In The Florist's Daughter, she turns the focus from herself to her parents and their ordinary lives. Resisting the impulse to be sentimental, she "homes in on the unguarded moment, the pivot of contradiction, that reveals character" (Newsday) and brings Stan and Mary Hampl to vivid life in her lovely prose and breathtaking metaphors. Critics note that the title is somewhat misleading and that some of Hampl's language is a bit over the top, but these were minor complaints. Honest, humorous, and heartfelt, Hampl's storytelling shines in what the New York Times Book Review calls her "finest, most powerful book yet."

Also by the Author

A Romantic Education (1981): Hampl traveled behind the Iron Curtain to Prague to explore her Czech heritage. This now-classic memoir evokes the city's rich culture and history, as well as the truth about life under socialism.