Reviews for Florist's Daughter
Booklist Reviews 2007 September #1
Hampl knows that everyday life is shaped by intrigue, ardor, and tragedy. A penetrating memoirist profoundly influenced by her home ground--the Catholic enclave of "old" St. Paul, Minnesota--Hampl portrays her temperamentally oppositional parents with humor and poignancy. Hampl's sardonic, pragmatic, book-devouring mother, Mary, took her Irish heritage seriously and never worried about her handsome Czech husband's fidelity, knowing that his mistress was his work as a gifted florist. As for Stan, he distrusted words and believed in nature's promise of renewal, grace, and innocence. Hampl remembers her young self as "willing to be enchanted" and as being torn between the divergent sensibilities of her compelling parents as she awoke to the bounty of art and literature. Her language is as voluptuous as her father's most ravishing floral arrangements; her sense of embedded truths stems from her mother's ferocious intelligence. Incisive and piquant, Hampl's homage to those who gave her life and who lived their own with fire and panache is a spirited tale of nature and nurture that brilliantly articulates our bred-in-the-bone need for beauty, purpose, and love. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2007 July #1
A dutiful daughter--and superb memoirist--reflects upon the deaths of her parents.Hampl (English/Univ. of Minnesota; Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime, 2006, etc.) has crafted an honest and loving tribute to her parents, who raised her in St. Paul, Minn., where she has remained virtually her entire life. Her father (the eponymous florist) and mother (a librarian) had different cultural histories. He was Czech; she, Irish. They worked hard, went to church, believed in truth, justice and the American way, did nothing the world would deem remarkable. And, Hampl says, "Nothing is harder to grasp than a relentlessly modest life." Her writings about that life highlight difficult truths about both the author and her parents. (It was her mother, she says, who made Hampl realize the coldness of her own heart.) Hampl begins at the hospital bedside of her mother, who lay dying after a stroke. She holds her hand and tries, simultaneously, to take notes. Several times in the ensuing text she returns to this scene--the hand-holding, the death-watch--until no life remains in the room but her own. The author moves back in time, telling us about her father's business (the employees, the customers, the economics of flower growing and selling) and her mother's career (she loved biographies). She adds that both had mixed feelings about her decision to become a poet. Her father, she says, thought "being a poet was all right, though hopeless." Her mother eventually created an archive of Hampl's work--every clipping, every note, every word she wrote. Hampl mentions occasionally her more conservative brother, who became a dentist and moved west, but his story is on the periphery. Death is the principal character, and Hampl shows us powerfully that Death touches not only the dying.A memoir for memoirists to admire--with language that pierces. Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2007 June #1
With her mother dying, elegant memoirist Hampl thinks back on being the dutiful florist's daughter in St. Paul. With a six-city tour; reading group guide. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal Reviews 2007 September #1
Hampl's (English, Univ. of Minnesota; A Romantic Education ) knowledge of memoir is well exercised: she's written four. With delicate precision and wry humor and in a style at once poetic and spare, she here recounts her years growing up in St. Paul, MN. Adult life saw Hampl still very much entwined in her role as a daughter, and she relates both the frustrations and the fulfillment of this casting throughout the work with frankness rather than self-pity. The book commences with an adult Hampl at the bedside of her dying mother. This wistful air coloring her writing is well balanced by her fond yet dry characterization of the colorful, sometimes caustic mother of Hampl's younger years. Hampl doesn't shy away from mundane details, instead using them to create vivid pictures of the surroundings and the people in her life. For example, she draws on some beautiful imagery from her father's occupation as a florist, using this as a window through which to view St. Paul's post--World War II social order. A thoughtful and elegant memoir suited to public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/07.]--Rebecca Bollen Manalac, Sydney, Australia [Page 144]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 July #1
Hampl (Blue Arabesque ; I Could Tell You Stories ) begins her very personal memoir with one hand clutching her dying mother Mary's hand, the other composing an obituary on a yellow tablet--an apt sendoff for an avid reader of biographies. As years of dutiful caretaking and a lifetime of daughterhood come to an end, Hampl reflects on her middle-class, mid-20th century middle-American stock, the kind of people who "assume they're unremarkable... even as they go down in licks of flame." Since her Czech father, Stan, couldn't afford college during the Depression, he made a livelihood as a florist. Hampl's wary Irish mother, a library file clerk, endowed her with the " traits of wordiness and archival passion." Like Hampl, Mary was a kind of magic realist--a storyteller who, finding people and their actions ancillary, "could haunt an empty room with description as if readying it for trouble." The memoir begins with the question of why, in spite of her black-sheep, wanderlust-hippie sensibilities, Hampl never left her hometown of St. Paul, Minn. In the end, the reason is clear. There was work to do, beyond daughterly duty: "Nothing is harder to grasp than a relentlessly modest life," she writes. With her enchanting prose and transcendent vision, she is indeed a florist's daughter--a purveyor of beauty--as well as a careful, tablet-wielding investigator, ever contemplative, measured and patient in her charge. (Oct.) [Page 42]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.