Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Arcadia by Lauren Groff

In the early 1970s, a group of nomad hippies finds a permanent home in rural upstate New York.  One of the many children of this band, Bit (so named for his small size), watches as his parents and the other adults in the group strive to create Arcadia, a back-to-the-land commune based on the principals of equality, hard work and non-violence. Life at Arcadia is physically hard and some personalities clash; but dedication to the ideal prevails and Bit thrives in the emotional warmth of this extended family. By the 1980s, the population of the community has grown and the idealism of the original members is diluted. The commune is eventually destroyed by the drugs and violence of some of the new members. The families scatter and their children must learn to adapt to new lives. Some are more successful than others. Many reject the values of Arcadia and their parents. Bit becomes a teacher, marries a fellow Arcadian and has a daughter. Nearly fifty years after the founding of Arcadia, Bit returns to care for his ailing mother. A flu pandemic is sweeping the world and the oceans are rising. Once more Arcadia is a refuge from the great troubles of the world but not the smaller personal problems of friends and family.