She sits beside her mother’s deathbed and makes notes for the obituary she will submit for a woman so proud of her daughter’s writing that she maintained a “shrine.” So begins Patricia Hampl’s loving memoir of her parents and her not especially dysfunctional family, the more usual grist for the memoirist mill. In fact, growing up in postwar St. Paul, Minnesota with a Czech father and an Irish mother, Hampl’s story might be our collective Midwestern experience. She writes honestly and humorously of her parent’s lives—her father, a handsome man who worked as a florist to the carriage trade, and her mother, a raconteur who’d regale her daughter’s imagination with an outsider’s perspective of society galas that her husband’s trade gained them entrée to—with vivid and moving detail and prose of uncommon clarity and verve. Anyone who’s confronted the inevitability of aging parents or grandparents will find universal resonance in these pages. (Brian Hieggelke)
Patricia Hampl reads from “The Florist’s Daughter” on October 11 at The Book Stall at Chestnut Court, 811 Elm Street, Winnetka, at 7pm.