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Thursday, March 15, 2012

(34)Arcadia by Lauren Groff


Publication Date: March 13, 2012
Pages: 304

I am a little too young to really "remember" the Hippy days gone by.  I was a child of the 80's and even though my Mom was was child of the 60's, she really wasn't a "Hippy" kind of girl.  So I have always found that lifestyle a bit fascinating.  The commune lifestyle is so completely different than anything I have ever known and I think that is what makes it so fascinating.

In her new novel, Arcadia, Lauren Groff takes us into that magical world that seems almost make believe.  She takes us to a commune in New York  called Arcadia.  Her main character is Ridley, but known to everyone as Bit.  We get to follow Bit from birth through his childhood on the commune.  From his early days through his adolescence  we get to pick up on the ways of commune life.  From Bit's education, to the baking, to their unique housing situation while the "mansion" is being built and of course the eclectic group of people you would expect to find on a  commune, led by charismatic rock star, Handy. Groff holds nothing back    But as most of us have learned, all good things must come to an end and communal living is no exception.  As a teenager Bit and his mother, Hannah are forced to leave their peaceful life and  commune family  to the city.   How will Bit adjust to life on the "outside" and will he forget everything his mother and family from the commune taught him?

Arcadia is very much a book for adults, but it is written from the perspective of a child for most of the book.  And frankly that style makes it a bit hard to follow at times. Even with that unique style of storytelling it is easy to see that Bit is a sweet, good-natured, innocent soul.  The older Bit gets the easier it is to follow his story, but his innocence never wanes.  When he moves to the "outside" it seemed like we missed a bit of the story, but I liked how he still stayed connected to the people from the Arcadia.  It is, after all, how he met his wife.  Handy's daughter, Helle.

Overall, Arcadia is a great read that I think Hippies, young and old, will enjoy. I must say that I enjoyed the last one third of the book better than the first two-thirds.  I liked how the story came full circle with Hannah and Bit taking care of her.  But, as a side note,  the whole "pandemic" subplot  seemed a bit unnecessary in the story, but maybe that was just me.   Bottom line, I think Arcadia is the kind of book that will transport you to another time and another place.  It may evoke memories in some readers and feed fascinations in other readers, like myself.  No matter what your age, though, it is a good read and deserves your attention.