© 2012 Lauren Groff
Lauren Groff’s acclaimed debut novel The Monsters of Templeton was short-listed for the Orange Prize. Her second novel, Arcadia opens in the late 1960s with a group of young idealists forming a commune in western New York State. Into this group is born Bit, who grows into a quiet, distant man. Over the course of 50 years, Bit witnesses the utopia crumble and the world change in unimaginable ways.
Narrarated by: Andrew Garman
© 2012 Lauren Groff
eMusic Review 0
A hippie heaven goes to hell
All utopias fail (seen one around recently?), but the undoing of the titular hippie commune in Lauren Groff’s fantastic second novel is exceptionally spectacular and heartbreaking. Of course, there are cracks in Arcadia from the beginning: the endless influx of Frisbee-tossing d-bags, the shady weed deals, the labor disputes, the charismatic guru whose teachings on equality are undermined by his own weaknesses. It’s a hot mess.
Still, for little Bit Stone, the first kid born on this secluded stretch of upstate New York farmland, the place is a verdant wonderland stocked with fresh produce, fresh air, an extended family of oddball characters, and sexual awakenings at every swimming hole. It’s also the only home he knows, so when the real world finally drops by to tear Arcadia apart, it’s devastating — for Bit, for his wayward crush Helle, for all the dirty ol’ bohemians and new age types who’d worked so hard to build the place, for the readers who’d half-seriously started daydreaming about life off the grid.
Groff, who turned heads with 2008′s wonderfully cockeyed family drama The Monsters of Templeton, has built something unassailably beautiful in Arcadia. Her sentences are lush, vivid, sensual things that twist and sprout in surprising but natural directions. Like Bit, the story goes where it goes, leaping forward in years and leaving familiar places for scarier frontiers. And when the world at large seems ready to collapse the way Arcadia did, it’s tragic and truthful. Lots of dystopias succeed, after all.
Write a Review 1 Member Review
I remember at first being puzzled, maybe even disappointed, by Lauren Groff's first book, The Monsters of Templeton - then I grew interested . . . fascinated . . . and finally delighted. Her second offering, Arcadia, had me from the first paragraph. It is happy, sad, shocking, tragic, comic, joyful, loving and a very real peek of the 1960s and 70s as I remember them. We get to know not only the main character, Bit, from the time he is born, but also his parents and all of their friends, neighbors and coworkers in the hopeful experiment called Arcadia. Each character is thoroughly and lovingly drawn and by the end of the book you feel as if you might have lived through these times yourself, toiling in the communal garden alongside them. Arcadia is the story of an era that has gone and can never be duplicated. I can't recommend this book highly enough - please read it.