The absolute truth? I might not have given Look At Flower a chance were it not for thumbs-up pre-publication blurbs written by longtime Grateful Dead publicist Dennis McNally, ozone navigator Commander Cody, and good ol’ sacred clown Wavy Gravy. After reading Look At Flower, I offer my thanks to all three of them – they were right.
Author Robert Dunn borrows a set-up from the pages of Robert James Waller’s Bridges of Madison County (brother and sister stumble onto an account of their late mother’s past while sorting through her belongings) but it’s totally forgiven once you’re burrowed up in the story.
Turns out that Mom (known only to her adult son Peter as “a fine mother to me and my sister Cecily; a children’s librarian [on to Harry Potter before anyone else I knew]; a member of the town council; an indefatigable writer of letters to the editor of the local paper; a big reader; a great cook …”) was also a sweet sailor of the Summer of Love known as Flower. Her story begins and ends in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, covering many twisted, turning, tie-dyed miles in between.
I know, I know – a quick read of the set-up and story line no doubt sets off a cliché alert in your mind, but Dunn weaves a tale that avoids the obvious paths. He employs characters real enough to remind you of someone, yet interesting and unique at the same time. The settings and situations – the commune; the duffel bag of contraband; the hippie girl in the redneck truck stop; the lunge for the doorway of a rolling boxcar; the crossing of paths with Jerry at a Dead show – sound almost obligatory for a novel set in 1967, but the story is engaging and manages to hold a few surprises in store nonetheless.
Look At Flower offers something for both those who lived the times and those who wish they had. It’s a nice little trip.