The Florist’s Daughter by Patricia Hampl

Buy now from Amazon!WE live in the age of the confession: anyone who’s had a reasonably unhappy childhood and isn’t flat-lining seems to be penning a biography. All but the chronically determined, however, will be intimidated into sticking with the day job after reading The Florist’s Daughter. Patricia Hampl doesn’t just raise the bar; she is the Yelena Isinbayeva of memoirists, creating page after page of flawless prose revealing how universal truths can unfurl from the particular.

We first encounter the author in a hospital. Her mother Mary is terminally ill, and the writer daughter is sitting by the bed with a yellow legal pad in her hand. “I’m a notetaker from long habit,” writes Hampl. This tone of wry self-awareness never lets up, not even in the midst of tragedy and drama. Hampl’s insistence on cutting through sentiment and nostalgia to arrive at a cool objective truth renders this book meditation rather than biography.

When Mary Marum, outspoken, sarcastic and opinionated, wed Stan Hampl, a gentle, mild-mannered florist in St. Paul, Minnesota, it was more than a marriage of opposites; it was a mingling of cultures—stern Irish Catholicism with Czech Bohemian-ness. Patricia Hampl analyzes not just her parents’ relationship but her own life choices in the context of the contradictions of this union, and in the process, arrives at insights about the nature of filial duty that will make most readers startle with recognition. When dealing with the gradual debilitation and death of a parent, The Florist’s Daughter can be an unbearably personal read. Hampl holds our worst fears to an implacable spotlight.

But the author’s bigger achievement is perhaps her ability to combine such intimate parsing of familial relationships with a flair for capturing the big picture, of summing up a whole generation or region. About the Midwest: “Of all the American regions, the Midwest remains the most imaginary, ahistorical but fiercely emblematic. It’s Nowheresville. But it’s also the Heartland. That weight again: the innocent middle. Though it isn’t innocent. It’s where the American imagination has decided to archive innocence.”

I never felt the need to travel to the Midwest until I read this book. Hampl makes St. Paul, where she has lived all her life, simultaneously transparent and mysterious. This author’s particular skill lies in transmuting the ordinary into something layered and profound without ever losing sight of its essential ordinariness. What a pleasure to see this intellect at work, what a thrill to read prose where every word seems to fall into its predestined place. Gift this book to all aspiring memoirists of your acquaintance.

 

(This review appears in Eclectica.)

2 responses to “The Florist’s Daughter by Patricia Hampl

  1. Dear Sir,

    I represent cityzenworld.com , an entertainment,

    lifestyle and news portal . The basic content of this website is chosen to

    appeal to both young men and women, and our targeted users’ age group is 20- 35 years. The portal will be online from January 1.

    We have taken the decision to publish articles, opinions and news

    content authored by top bloggers and freelance writers. Accepted contributions will be

    paid for according to the length and quality of article.

    I am interested in publishing articles authored by you on various topics and interests.

    I would like to know, how to subscribe to your content as well as the payment involved.

    Looking forward to your contribution.
    Warm Regards,

    AMAR KUMAR
    Marketing Manager
    +91-9952090973
    +91-9003095417
    Jemi Media
    Chennai-83

  2. Hallo, das ist denn mal was Anderes hier. Da hab ich mir eine Bookmark gespeichert.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s