Author: Lauren Groff
Date Read: October 1, 2013
Summary: In the fields and forests of western New York State in the late 1960s, several dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding what becomes a famous commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this lyrical, rollicking, tragic, and exquisite utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and after. The story is told from the point of view of Bit, a fascinating character and the first child born in Arcadia. goodreads
Review: This is another one of those uncle hand-me-downs that I got over the summer and this book came out of left field and smacked me in the face. I loved it! I started this book without even reading the summary and was
amazed when I found myself genuinely connecting with characters and the story.
A story about a bunch of hippies! I’m as un-hippie as it gets. The closest I’ve
ever come to hippie-dom was wearing a tie dye shirt I made when I was little.
(That thing was ugly but no one ever mentions how hard tie dying can be when
you’re a kid and when you finally create one, you rock that baby. Brown colors or not.) I could never live on a commune. I support the idea of everyone
working for their share but know that, as proven by this book, it rarely
actually works out that way. So why did I enjoy this book so much?
Well, for one, Bit. Little Bit of a hippie. I loved the way
this story was told through his eyes and at every age, the viewpoint seemed so
genuine. It felt as though a 5 year old was really describing the way a commune
works in his own special, albeit distorted, ways. It felt as though a 14 year
old was really pouring his heart while going through one of the most upsetting
and life changing points of his life and puberty at the same time. I was able to see how the commune genuinely affect Bit in his 30s and then the struggle between his love for Arcadia and his life in the city in his 40s. I also felt that Bit was just a genuine person all around. He was caring and loving and it came back to bite him in the ass sometimes which I thought was honest. Being caring and loving are great traits that can get you very far in life, but they can also get you burned easily if you don't look out. Bit got burned/abandoned by the "love of his life" which got him stuck in a rut for awhile. As the story progressed, we saw him crawl out of his rut, overcome more sadness and hurt, and begin to find his place in a world that began in Arcadia and moves on to city living.
The author did a phenomenal job of creating
Acardia and helping the reader (even an anti-hippie reader) connect with the
community and understand the reason this place existed in the first place. She
helped us see impact of mental illness and addictions through various lenses
which allowed the reader to truly understand how family members view these
diseases. She also pointed out the flaws in this type of living if people who aren't like Bit, Hannah, Astrid, and Abe are involved. She did it in a loving way that people can understand without completely destroying the abstract concept of a "successful hippie commune." As I said, the hippie life is not for me but this book gave me a glimpse into why people choose this life and what it would take to make it work; as well as how easily utopia can be destroyed. Check it out!