One of the challenges that a memoirist faces is the first question that resistant readers, already overloaded with the personal details of other people's lives in this era of blogging, will ask: Why should we be interested in this person's rather ordinary life? In her newest memoir, The Florist's Daughter, Patricia Hampl answers that question within the first few pages. This memoir should be read precisely because Hampl's life is ordinary. In the opening scene, she sits at her dying mother's bedside, drafting the obituary. This moment is the impetus for Hampl to look back at her own life and try to answer the question of why, in spite of all of her ambitions and bohemian aspirations, she never left St. Paul, a city that without Minneapolis would be "a cold Omaha." Hampl's sharp sentences, astute details, and honest observations conjure remarkably universal experiences. This in and of itself is an achievement because, as Hampl notes, "Nothing is harder to grasp than a relentlessly modest life."
Sun., Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m., 2007