Book Review: Arcadia

02Jan13

arcadia_groff

Title: Arcadia

Author: Lauren Groff

Genre: Literary

Publisher: Voice/Hyperion

Length: 289 pages

Library: Monroeville Public Library

Challenge: Peek-a-Book 2013 Women Challenge

Summary: The rise, fall, and aftermath of life in a utopian commune, as seen through the eyes of a boy who was born and raised there.

Analysis

Quietly intense and powerful, Arcadia captures the hope and magic that drive people to seek a perfect world, as well as the terrible sadness that occurs when, of necessity, that perfection falls short. Ridley “Bit” Stone was the first baby born in Arcadia, an intentional community in Western New York, and his childhood is filled with miracles, wonder, and the beauty of the natural world. The adult struggle to build a flourishing community is lost on him, but not on us, the mature readers, who know that this will probably all end in tears because people just don’t stop being people, even when they remove themselves from the ostensibly “corrupt” sphere of “normal” civilization.

The joy of reading Arcadia is that, while the magic does dim, it never really dies, even after Bit and his parents decide to leave the commune before the bottom drops out completely. As he grows into adulthood, Bit struggles to reconcile the beauty and wonder of his childhood memories with the challenges of urban living and “respectable” livelihood. And yes, there are plenty of tears as the children and adults of Arcadia grow older and face more sobering challenges. But it is Bit’s struggle to be conscious of the world, to actively seek out the magic that fuels it, and to preserve semblances of community and hope in the face of the inevitable–illness, death, environmental decay–that make the novel so wonderful to read.

Recommended for: fans of literary fiction and/or Rachel Carson, anyone who appreciates the beauty of the natural world, anybody going through a quarter-life or mid-life crisis, readers who like following the pov of one central character, readers who appreciate fairy tale themes and/or a dream-like, magical quality to narrative.

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2 Responses to “Book Review: Arcadia”

  1. Congratulations!!! ^_^
    Let me know about your next books! 🙂

    Valentina
    http://www.peekabook.it

  2. Absolutely – thanks for reading!

    Leigh Anne


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