Patricia Hampl's memoir, The Florist's Daughter (Harcourt), is set in St. Paul, Minnesota, a place where ordinary people live "faultlessly ordinary lives." It is this ingrained modesty of ambition that troubles the writer as she tries, at her mother's deathbed, to pierce the deep freeze of her own emotions. A relentlessly middle-class enclave can be, as Hampl wryly notes, "a cozy setting for heartlessness." Her optimistic father, the purveyor of beautiful flowers who trusted that life was not only good but intrinsically elegant, and her judgmental, charismatic mother produced a daughter who kept longing to bolt from "Nowheresville," even as the sweet "sin of memory" called her home. "In its cloudy wistfulness," she writes, "nostalgia fuels the spark of significance. My place. My people."