Published by: Hyperion Voice
Published on: March 13, 2012
Page Count: 304
My Reading Format: Hardcover I purchased for my personal library.
Available Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook
Related Review: The Monsters of Templeton
Summary from the Publisher
In the fields of western New York State in the 1970s, a few dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding what would become a commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this romantic, rollicking, and tragic utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and after.
Arcadia’s inhabitants include Handy, a musician and the group’s charismatic leader; Astrid, a midwife; Abe, a master carpenter; Hannah, a baker and historian; and Abe and Hannah’s only child, the book’s protagonist, Bit, who is born soon after the commune is created.
While Arcadia rises and falls, Bit, too, ages and changes. If he remains in love with the peaceful agrarian life in Arcadia and deeply attached to its residents—including Handy and Astrid’s lithe and deeply troubled daughter, Helle—how can Bit become his own man? How will he make his way through life and the world outside of Arcadia where he must eventually live?
I had been looking forward to Lauren Groff’s next novel from the moment I finished The Monsters of Templeton. I couldn’t have been happier to hear the news about Arcadia‘s publication. Although I bought it immediately, I wasn’t able to fit it into my reading schedule until I particated in Read My Own Books in November. I had initially decided not to write reviews for my RMOB reads. I didn’t want to feel any pressure whatsoever. While that decision had it’s merit, I’ve kept thinking about this book since then. It doesn’t feel right. This book wouldn’t let me go.
What I loved about Arcadia is Bit. Knowing that he was my contemporary, I felt an immediate connection to him despite the fact that my parents and my childhood were conventional in comparison. His life in what was meant to be a Utopian environment was so compelling. His unstable mother and his dedicated father installed him with both chaos and purpose. It seems almost inevitable that when a group of people join together to live out an ideal that factions sprout up like weeds and eventually choke out the truth upon which the group was founded. As it imploded and then dissolved, I had to hold my breath as Bit was forced to step out and make his own way. I needn’t have worried. Bit is a study in resilience and hope.
Once again, I was impressed with the world Lauren Groff created. The lack of quotation marks did distract me and required a closer reading than I had been anticipating, but I was able to find my footing. I would highly recommend Arcadia, especially when you are in the mood for more than just a causal read. You will find yourself engrossed in commune life and rooting for Bit from his beginnings to his adulthood in the outside world.