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Arcadia by Lauren Groff

June 12, 2014

Arcadia RD 1 cleanb

This is a novel about a boy named Bit Stone, the first child born at an upstate New York commune called Arcadia in the late ‘60s. It follows Bit from his birth through his youth at the commune, his departure and adjustment to life in the “real world,” through the year 2018.

As Bit grows up with the commune, the story is really about both of them. It’s about the idealism of the late ‘60s and the difficulty of maintaining those ideals in a growing community. As Bit and the commune grow up together, we get to see their parallel development, including their loss of innocence and struggle to find their identity in the face of the adult world.

Although some of the Utopian ideals are exposed as naïve, the book is not completely judgmental of those ideals. It finds the good with the bad, and although the novel is infused with emotion and a longing for a pure, simple life by the citizens of Arcadia, there are also quite a few practical challenges of life on a commune. Overall, I found the description of life there to be the most interesting part of the book, particularly when outside forces start to pressurize the community.

I was less interested in Bit, particularly throughout the back half of the novel. Once he leaves the commune, he’s just a fairly normal dude trying to adjust to life in the big city. I did find one theme intriguing—there’s a conversation in which Bit draws the parallel between inhabitants of New York City and members of Arcadia, how people in both places live interdependently, sharing resources as well as values. It’s an interesting point, though not fully developed and, as is, a little heavy-handed.

Overall, a decent read, but I didn’t love Arcadia.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 12, 2014 1:46 am

    I tried to read this but couldn’t. I don’t know what it was but something was off….

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