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.
©2012 Lauren Groff (P)2012 Recorded Books, LLC
“Richly peopled and ambitious… is one of the most moving and satisfying novels I’ve read in a long time.” (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author)
With luscious prose Lauren Groff tells the story of Bit, a boy born in the late 1960’s on a VW bus in a snowstorm in Wyoming, as his parents and their communal caravan drive across the U.S. to settle in upstate New York. The community they found soon after his birth, Arcadia, is Bit’s complete world for his first 15 years. Bit’s experiences of poverty, hunger, cold and isolation are presented with intimacy and unsparing realism. But so too are his experiences of love, acceptance, joy in nature and discovery.
“Arcadia” movingly presents the emotional and physical experiences of Bit and his friends, as well as those of the adults of the community, when the inevitable “crisis” occurs that leads to the disintegration of the group and the exodus of most of its members, including Bit and the other children. The story of Bit’s radically different adult life is the second half of the novel. Groff does an excellent job portraying him in his later years in a way that is wholly consistent, and utterly believable, given the child we have come to know so intimately in the earlier part of the book.
I found the reading by Andrew Garman a bit flat at first. However, his understated and undramatic way of reading allowed the beautiful writing to shine through on its own. I never tired of listening to this book, and found that his voice slipped quietly into the background, so that I might have been reading it on the written page rather than listening to it.
I thought this was a terrific novel--a clear story line with layers of tales under the surface. It spans decades, from the '60s to the not too distant future, and left me contemplating my own future in a new light.
The novel is really beautifully written, the language rich enough to drown in. The characters, with their inevitable flaws, are developed sympathetically. Arcadia is the story of a boy who grows up away from the "real world," in a gigantic commune, where pot, poverty, and extravagant dreams and hopes are constants, and what happens when, inevitably, he must join the rest of the human race.
My criterion for narration is simple: a clear, modulated voice that doesn't overpower the music of the words themselves, as the author wrote them. I had no complaints with this novel.
I wish I had it to read over again--and of course I do, and I will!
I thought this book was amazing. It was a beautiful evocation of a time and of politics that are gone. I thought the characters were well drawn and brought to life with the great narration of Andrew Garman. Lauren Groff's writing is so terrific to listen to. I recommend this wholeheartedly.
Lauren Groff does not short change you, you are not left wondering what happens to the characters in her books, she will give you every last detail, even when you have long ago stopped csring. She does not think one's later years are anything but sad and petty. That people have no relevance once they have passed a certain stage in life.
While I did find that effective in Fates and Furies, this effort leaves me wishing her outlook on life would widen and she could perhaps produce characters with more depth. Nevertheless I enjoyed the hippie commune.
I just couldn't get into this book. I read almost half of it and kept wishing that I was at the end. I loved her other book--The Monsters of Templeton--but the subject of the book, a hippy commune, just didn't keep me interested. And the very small boy who is the main character kept making me think of Owen Meany. So I set this book aside.
My favorite of all of Lauren Groffs novels, Arcadia follows one man named Bit from childhood in a hippie commune through life. Poignant, beautifully written, we see the world through Bit's eyes.
I am about the age of main characters parents, and also "experimented" with communal living as well as a lot of other facets of this story. I had a deep fear that I was to have a child and raise him/her in that environment that it would be akin to child neglect. ie-bringing up a child in such an unrealistic world...without real healthcare sketchy vegan diet...I could go on, but you know what I mean. I always knew I was just 'playing' at being a 'peacenik', altho the principles are engrained in me even now. This book and story truely resonated with me personally that is to say. The development is a little slow to take off, Until I realized it was being told thru the voice of a young 'hippie' child. Then it made sense to me, and I became Bit. So well written I empathized with him completely. Didnt want the story to stop. The narrator is awesome. Simple perfect.
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