Arcadiaby Groff, Lauren
Arcadia is a commune founded by a group of wandering hippies in the 1960s. Its sprawling 800 acres, complete with dilapidated mansion, become home to Bit, the first baby born to the commune. He is nicknamed Bit because he weighs only 3 pounds at birth, just a "Little Bit of Hippie." Through Bit's eyes we see the commune's transformation from 1965 through 2018. His world revolves around his parents, Abe and Hannah, a couple who remain amazingly loyal to one another in a place where free-love is encouraged. Children are raised in a "Kid Herd" in Arcadia, and Bit becomes a favorite of the "Hens," the pregnant women of the commune who welcome him into the birthing rooms along with the midwives. Bit learns about sex and the human body well before he can understand love and lust and the nature of relationships. As Bit grows, so does the commune, until the core group of founding hippies become lost in a continuous stream of transient individuals who have no respect for the community and its values of self-sustainment. As Bit grows into a young man, his parents decide it is time to leave Arcadia and make their way in the outside world where they will never completely fit. In the end Arcadia becomes a mythical place of memory to which those who knew it well will be forever tethered.
Arcadia is a compelling read filled with stunningly detailed characters that will transport the reader straight into another time. Groff's prose is captivating, evoking a strong sense of place as she builds a world filled with such visceral scents and images that you can almost taste the "Slap-Apple" cider and smell the unwashed humanity as they work and live and love in this utopian society. Other novels with similar coming of age, sixties themes are The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie McDonald and We are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg.
Reviewed by CC, 06/12. Other reviews by CC. Have you read this book? Tell us what you think!