Brought together by their shared apartment complex, Seymour and Charlie become first inseparable friends, then family, as they make friends, plans, adventures and find ways to navigate the joys and losses, trials and pitfalls of their adolescence.

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for this review.

Not Flowers For Charlie is told primarily through Seymour’s perspective, either in the novel’s main setting of the 1960’s or in his recollections from the present day. As such, the majority of the events are coloured by his own experiences. Seymour seems to be one of those children old before their years, the reasons for which become apparent as the story progresses. Although as intelligent as Charlie, he often lacks either her confidence or her constantly inquisitive nature, but mostly he is happy enough to be carried along by her enthusiasm.

Charlie is given some additional insight through frequent excerpts from her log, misspellings and all. A precocious child, her intelligence and curiosity about the world shines through, as does the fierce love she has for those close to her. But for the most part, she remains part of Seymour’s reminiscences as do the rest of their family. Their other brothers are afforded significantly less page theme, with only one of the three given much examination.

Of the adult characters, Charlie’s mother Gwen and their friend Miss Celeste are the best drawn, with Seymour’s father being more removed, something he laments later. Seymour’s mother, grotesque as she is, stays just on the right side of caricature; giving a portrait of a spoiled selfish woman equally unable to see people as anything but a reflection on herself and the damage such thinking does to those around her.

The writing is strong and straightforward, evoking a great sense of time, place and the kind of small town life that,in many cases, doesn’t exist any more.

Not Flowers For Charlie is a bittersweet novel, recalling the loves and losses of childhood in the best of ways and is wholeheartedly recommended.

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