Sally G. (Saint Johns, FL)
I have been to Arcadia.
This is one of those rare books in which the writer hypnotizes you.
I had a hard time getting through this book as I could only read a few pages at a time. Not being a physiologist, I can only wonder why. I think it was too rich for my mind to handle in large doses.
The story starts with a hippie commune in Arcadia, New York, built on the idealist premise that all human being are equal with the same work ethic. Then the freeloaders and the king pin (Handy) erode the system.
This story we hear through a sensitive Childs (Bit) brain as a toddler on through the middle age of 55years old and a photographer in the City. We only know what his brain tends to tell and therefore no quotation marks are used.
There is no big “Wow” moment as the story is of ordinary people living their ordinary lives. With a quiet, introspective, telescopic glimpse of Lauren Groff’s characters in the mind of Bit Stone we get to read on that road.
With the writing of Lauren Groff we are transported to the world of beautiful phrases and thoughts.
Marjorie A. (Gainesville, Florida)
Steping Into Another World
This book enabled me to enter a world I had imagined for myself but never acted on - living as a hippie on a commune. Life in Arcadia sublime and awful; the characters are multidimensional and believable; and the ending is satisfying leaving me wanting more.
Lora O. (Antioch, CA)
Arcadia - Best Book read in 2011
This book follows the story of Ridley Stone "Bit", the first child born in Arcadia, a commune founded by his parents and other vividly drawn, quirky, idealists. Bit is one of the most delightful and endearing characters I've ever come across and I enjoyed the journey from the magic of his childhood to his much later life as a father and caring son to his parents. Arcadia was a very flawed and imperfect place despite the efforts of the utopians who created it, but the values Bit grew up with caused him to become an intelligent, gentle, compassionate artist who finds a way to live with grace and sensitivity in a world that becomes increasingly dark, scary and threatening.
Lauren Groff's language is beautiful and I found myself underlining sentences and phrases. I was moved by the tragedies and losses but felt uplifted by the kindness and connections of the characters.
I truly enjoyed every minute of this luminous, offbeat and lovely book. If it had been published earlier, it would have been my holiday gift to my closest friends.
Judy K. (Sunland, CA)
Ideals, Love and Sorrow
Lauren Goff's first novel had plenty of potential but did not live up to my expectations. In Arcadia, she has found her true voice. For me, and possibly anyone involved in hippie culture in the 60s and 70s, this is a moving story. Through Bit, born and raised on a commune, the emotional and developmental results of living outside mainstream American life are brought to full realization.
I gratefully admired Goff's non-judgemental view. Yes, Bit was damaged in certain ways but he retained the values he was taught. His struggle to assimilate in the "real world" feels very true. Idealism always leads to sorrow but at least it contains ideals. The writing is beautiful, in fact astounding.
Annie P. (Murrells Inlet, SC)
Arcadia, by Lauren Groff
When I first began reading this book, my feeling was that the author was spending entirely too much time on the little boy Bit. As I continued to read, it dawned on me that the reason for loitering in his early childhood was to give the reader a feeling of what it was like to live in a commune, the people, the general living conditions, the food, the beliefs and who was in charge of all the decisions, if anyone. Everything in his early childhood gave Bit the outlook on his entire life and how he was able or not to cope with the outside world. His family was first in his life, but he took on many people, relatives by blood or marriage, or Arcadia. This book cleared up a lot of questions of why the true hippies never really assimilated into “society,” at least the kind we take for granted when we haven’t been exposed to a totally different kind of life. The only ones we ever hear of are the addicts and the addled. Very little is told of the people who lived off the fruits of the earth, never ate meat or killed another being, and accepted a very different version of truth and religion, adjusting it to meet their needs. At the end, I loved this book, and wanted it to keep going. I wanted to find out more about Bit and his daughter. I missed Hannah but admired Bit for his devotion. Thank you, Ms. Groff, for a lovely, unusual and fulfilling story. I will look forward to another book in the near future.
Diane D. (Blairstown, NJ)
Fascinating, but disturbing book
I enjoyed the book, which held my interest throughout, but the lifestyle of Arcadia disturbed me, as I thought it would. The characters were very well done, which you don't always find in a book.
I think this would be a great book for a book club, because there is opportunity for a LOT of discussion! I don't remember reading anything comparable to this one, and I think a lot of people would get a lot out of it.
Gary R. (bolingbrook, IL)
A lot of Bit of wonderful!
Having read the author's first novel I was looking forward to this and was not disappointed! Just a wonderful read, sucked me in till the last page! The story of a life lived. The joy, wonder, awakening and heartbreak, written in words that made me want to re-read passages over again! Maybe I'm a little biased having grown up in this era, but I've already pre-ordered the hardcover. Have you?