Arcadia by Lauren Groff

by Andrea on April 12, 2012

When Arcadia hit the shelves last month, I knew I had to get it as soon as I saw it was about a commune. I have always had a bit of an obsession with communes (ah hem, “intentional communities”). Even when I was a little kid, I used to make a fort out of lawn furniture in the front yard and pretend I was on a boat sailing around the world with all my favorite friends, living together in peace and harmony. Even at 10, I was an idealist.

In college, I spent a year living in a co-op. The advantage here was that every night two people cooked dinner and two different people cleaned the kitchen afterwards. This meant you only had to cook once a week and clean once a week…and in return you got to eat killer food every single night, most of which you didn’t have to cook yourself. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely some culinary disasters in the mix (most of them my fault), but generally I would give the experience a thumbs up.

Life’s too much work to do it all on your own. Teamwork is way better. The Quakers have it all figured out with the whole barn building philosophy. I mean, what a fabulous community ethos.

Sigh.

Anyway, I was very much looking forward to reading Arcadia. Sadly, my reading pace has slowed down of late (I’ve been notably distracted), and it took me a while to get through it. I liked the book, but it wasn’t my absolute favorite. It was a little heavier and more lyrical than I was expecting…kinda on the dark side.  And a little more immersed in the hippie drug culture than I was expecting, but that just shows my naivete. I really shouldn’t have been surprised. This is where I admit to myself that I favor books with happy endings.

I did, however, enjoy being brought back to that era when everyone was caravaning their custom-painted school buses to rally behind Steven Gaskin-like characters to places like The Farm in Tennessee. That must have been quite the trip…everyone probably thought the Revolution was palpable and nearly visible on the horizon just around the corner.

Oh, how far we’ve strayed.

It was interesting to follow the main character, Bit, over the course of his life growing up on the commune, moving to New York City, and then returning to his childhood home, years later, under difference circumstances. I’ve only known a couple of folks that actually did grow up on communes, and I think they had different experiences than little Bit. But hey, no two communes are alike, right? In the end, I think the book was less about the commune and more about the inner thoughts of Bit.

If you want to warp your mind just a little bit, read Arcadia.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kat April 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm

I too favor books with happy endings. I suppose I can even deal with unhappy endings. It’s just the really ambiguous, unresolved, no-chance of a sequel endings I despise.
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Allison @ PickyEatingRD April 12, 2012 at 7:34 pm

I am extremely naive so I would prob. be pretty shocked. Plus, I tend to go the “happy” book route as well haha. I’ve never met anyone who has grown up in a commune and am pretty clueless when it comes to the experience one would even have I guess.
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Shauna April 12, 2012 at 10:01 pm

I’m definitely an American and favor a happy ending, for sure. Sometimes we’ll watch a British series/ movie and it’s so devastatingly tragic I just think “man these people have a different perspective.” Americans tend to the idealistic side.

I know I couldn’t read this book. My mom says I live in a happy bubble so this rules out a lot of what I read. Have I mentioned this to you before, sorry if I’m repeating.

I’m interested in the people you know who lived in communes? Intriguing? Enjoy your end of the week,

Shauna
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Willow @ My Own Trail April 13, 2012 at 6:28 am

Wow, I haven’t heard of this book. I must be living under a rock. But, I have to chime in because I’m just finishing my master’s thesis (History), which happens to be on the Back to the Land movement! I was actually born on a commune and spent a bit of my childhood living the lifestyle, so I am particularly drawn to it. I’ll have to check this book out and see how it meshes with my research.

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marie April 14, 2012 at 9:41 am

In a roundabout way this post made me think of one of my favorite movies ‘The Village’, have you seen it? So good!
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Sarah April 20, 2012 at 4:42 am

Haven’t read it but might have to give it a go. So cute that when you were 10 you were already thinking about ‘peace and harmony’ :D
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