Arcadia [NOOK Book]

Overview

New York Times Bestseller

"Timeless and vast... The raw beauty of Ms. Groff's prose is one of the best things about Arcadia. But it is by no means this book's only kind of splendor." —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"Even the most incidental details vibrate with life Arcadia wends a harrowing path back to a fragile, lovely place you can believe in." —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

In the fields of western ...

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Arcadia

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Overview

New York Times Bestseller

"Timeless and vast... The raw beauty of Ms. Groff's prose is one of the best things about Arcadia. But it is by no means this book's only kind of splendor." —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"Even the most incidental details vibrate with life Arcadia wends a harrowing path back to a fragile, lovely place you can believe in." —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

In the fields of western New York State in the 1970s, a few dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding a commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this romantic utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday. Arcadia's inhabitants include Handy, the charismatic leader; his wife, Astrid, a midwife; Abe, a master carpenter; Hannah, a baker and historian; and Abe and Hannah's only child, Bit. While Arcadia rises and falls, Bit, too, ages and changes. He falls in love with Helle, Handy's lovely, troubled daughter. And eventually he must face the world beyond Arcadia.

In Arcadia, Groff displays her literary gifts to stunning effect.

"Fascinating." People (****)

"It's not possible to write any better without showing off." —Richard Russo, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Empire Falls

"Dazzling." Vogue

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Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
Page by page through Lauren Groff's story about a hippie commune in western New York, I kept worrying that it was too good to last. Not the commune—it's a mess from the start—I'm talking about the novel, which unfolds one moment of mournful beauty after another…Arcadia offers something surprising: if not a redemption of utopian ideals, then at least a complicated defense of the dream…Groff's miracle is to record the death of the fantasy but then show how the residue of affection can persist and, given the right soil, sprout again. Arcadia wends a harrowing path back to a fragile, lovely place you can believe in.
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
Ms. Groff has taken a quaint, easily caricatured community and given it true universality, not just the knee-jerk kind that Arcadian platitudes espoused. Even more unexpectedly, she has expanded this period piece so that it stretches from 1965 to 2018, coaxing forth a remarkable amount of suspense from the way her characters change over time. And a book that might have been small, dated and insular winds up feeling timeless and vast.
—The New York Times
John Wilwol
Lauren Groff's second novel, Arcadia, arrives bearing enthusiastic blurbs from Kate Walbert and Richard Russo…But readers doomed to miss their subway stops will wish the cover also included a warning: "This novel will swallow you whole"…The book's real treat…is Groff's writing. As in her first novel, The Monsters of Templeton, Groff's sentences are lush and visual…Her descriptions of the young Bit, meanwhile, uncannily illuminate the hidden world of children.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Groff’s dark, lyrical examination of life on a commune follows Bit, aka Little Bit, aka Ridley Sorrel Stone, born in the late ’60s in a spot that will become Arcadia, a utopian community his parents help to form. Despite their idealistic goals, the family’s attempts at sustainability bring hunger, cold, illness, and injury. Bit’s vibrant mother retreats into herself each winter; caring for the community literally breaks his father’s back. The small, sensitive child whose purposeful lack of speech is sometimes mistaken for slowness finds comfort in Grimms’ fairy tales and is lost in the outside world once Arcadia’s increasingly entitled spiritual leader falls from grace and the community crumbles. Split between utopia and its aftermath, the book’s second half tracks the ways in which Bit, now an adult (he’s 50 when this all ends, in 2018), has been shaped by Arcadia; a career in photography was the perfect choice for a man who “watches life from a good distance.” Bit’s painful experiences as a husband, father, and son grow more harrowing as humanity becomes increasingly imperiled. The effective juxtaposition of past and future and Groff’s (Delicate Edible Birds) beautiful prose make this an unforgettable read. Agent: William Morris Endeavor. (Mar.)
Kate Walbert
"Part Stone Diaries, part Lord of the Flies, part something out of a Shakespearean tragedy, Lauren Groff's Arcadia is so uniquely absorbing that you finish it as if waking from a dream. Groff is one of our most talented writers, and Arcadia one of the most revelatory, magical, and ambitious novels I've read in years."
Richard Russo
"Richly peopled and ambitious and oh, so lovely, Lauren Groff's Arcadia is one of the most moving and satisfying novels I've read in a long time. It's not possible to write any better without showing off."
Hannah Tinti
"Arcadia feels true, as do the characters who populate this extraordinary novel, which lingers on passing moments in time and highlights the importance of place in preserving not only our memories, but also ourselves."
Booklist (Starred Review)
"[A] beautifully crafted novel Groff's second novel, after the well-received The Monsters of Templeton (2008), gives full rein to her formidable descriptive powers, as she summons both the beauty of striving for perfection and the inevitable devastation of failing so miserably to achieve it."
Janet Maslin
"[Lauren Groff] has taken a quaint, easily caricatured community and given it true universality...And a book that might have been small, dated and insular winds up feeling timeless and vast...The raw beauty of Ms. Groff's prose is one of the best things about Arcadia. But it is by no means this book's only kind of splendor."
Ron Charles
"I was constantly torn between wanting to gulp down this book or savor its lines. Even the most incidental details vibrate with life... Arcadia wends a harrowing path back to a fragile, lovely place you can believe in."
Entertainment Weekly
"A moving look at the value of human connection in a scary, chaotic world."
Vogue
"Lauren Groff's dazzling new novel brings the flawed visions of a '60s commune to life... At a moment when so much floating anger struggles for articulation, it's Groff's essential human empathy that gives her work its urgency."
Elle
"One of our best young novelists brings a lost Eden of hippiedom freshly to life... Groff's prismatic prose style lends itself to the darker currents that run beneath the Arcadian dream... both poetic and ambitious."
From the Publisher
"[Lauren Groff] has taken a quaint, easily caricatured community and given it true universality...And a book that might have been small, dated and insular winds up feeling timeless and vast...The raw beauty of Ms. Groff's prose is one of the best things about Arcadia. But it is by no means this book's only kind of splendor."—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"I was constantly torn between wanting to gulp down this book or savor its lines. Even the most incidental details vibrate with life... Arcadia wends a harrowing path back to a fragile, lovely place you can believe in."—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"****"—People

"A moving look at the value of human connection in a scary, chaotic world."—Entertainment Weekly

"Lauren Groff's dazzling new novel brings the flawed visions of a '60s commune to life... At a moment when so much floating anger struggles for articulation, it's Groff's essential human empathy that gives her work its urgency."—Vogue

"One of our best young novelists brings a lost Eden of hippiedom freshly to life... Groff's prismatic prose style lends itself to the darker currents that run beneath the Arcadian dream... both poetic and ambitious."—Elle

"Groff's beautiful prose make this an unforgettable read."—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"[A] beautifully crafted novel Groff's second novel, after the well-received The Monsters of Templeton (2008), gives full rein to her formidable descriptive powers, as she summons both the beauty of striving for perfection and the inevitable devastation of failing so miserably to achieve it."—Booklist (Starred Review)

"Arcadia feels true, as do the characters who populate this extraordinary novel, which lingers on passing moments in time and highlights the importance of place in preserving not only our memories, but also ourselves."—Hannah Tinti, author of the bestselling and award-winning novel The Good Thief

"Richly peopled and ambitious and oh, so lovely, Lauren Groff's Arcadia is one of the most moving and satisfying novels I've read in a long time. It's not possible to write any better without showing off."—Richard Russo, author of the novel That Old Cape Magic and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls"Part Stone Diaries, part Lord of the Flies, part something out of a Shakespearean tragedy, Lauren Groff's Arcadia is so uniquely absorbing that you finish it as if waking from a dream. Groff is one of our most talented writers, and Arcadia one of the most revelatory, magical, and ambitious novels I've read in years."—Kate Walbert, author of the New York Times bestselling novel A Short History of Women

"An astonishing novel, both in ambition and achievement, filled with revelations that appear inevitable in retrospect, amid the cycle of life and death. A novel of "the invisible tissue of civilization," of "community or freedom," and of the precious fragility of lives in the balance."—Kirkus (Starred Review)

Library Journal
Bit Stone was born in the early 1960s to a devoted couple living in a secluded hippie commune in western New York. He was a mostly happy boy, if quietly unnerved (his mother struggles with seasonal depression), who loves Arcadia and his parents and all the people there who lead hard, pure lives, living off the land. His parents, Hannah and Adam, are at the center of the loose Arcadia administration whose acknowledged leader, Handy, increasingly butts heads with Adam. It is no surprise that as the population of Arcadia grows and drugs become more prevalent, the community, set upon by political events that move the narrative into the near future, falls apart. Bit and the other core members go out into the real world with a wildly fluctuating level of success. VERDICT Groff, author of 2008's magnificent The Monsters of Templeton, eschews counterculture stereotypes to bring Bit's interior and exterior worlds to life. Her exquisite writing makes the reader question whether to hurry up to read the next beautiful sentence or slow down and savor each passage. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/19/11.]—Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI
Kirkus Reviews
An astonishing novel, both in ambition and achievement, filled with revelations that appear inevitable in retrospect, amid the cycle of life and death. As a follow-up to Groff's well-received debut (The Monsters of Templeton, 2008), this novel is a structural conundrum, ending in a very different place than it begins while returning full circle. At the outset, it appears to be a novel of the Utopian, communal 1960s, of a charismatic leader, possibly a charlatan, and an Arcadia that grows according to his belief that "the Universe will provide." It concludes a half-century later in a futuristic apocalypse of worldwide plague and quarantine. To reveal too much of what transpires in between would undermine the reader's rich experience of discovery: "The page of a book can stay cohesive in the eyes: one sentence can lead to the next. He can crack a paragraph and eat it. Now a story. Now a novel, one full life enclosed in covers." The "he" is Bit Stone, introduced as a 5-year-old child of that commune, and it is his life that is enclosed in these covers. Following a brief prologue, representing a pre-natal memory, the novel comprises four parts, with leaps of a decade or more between them, leaving memory and conjecture to fill in the blanks. At an exhibition of Bit's photography, a passion since his childhood (documented in some shots), those who had known him all his life realized, "What they found most moving, they told him later, were the blanks between the frames, the leaps that happened invisibly between the then and the now." The cumulative impact of this novel is similar, as the boy leaps from the commune and subsequently his parents, becomes a parent himself, deals with the decline of his parents and finds his perspective both constant and constantly changing: "He can't understand what the once-upon-a-time Bit is saying to the current version of himself or to the one who will stand here in the future...worn a little more by time and loss." A novel of "the invisible tissue of civilization," of "community or freedom," and of the precious fragility of lives in the balance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401342784
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 3/13/2012
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 80,445
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Lauren Groff is the author of the New York Times bestselling MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON and the critically acclaimed short story collection DELICATE EDIBLE BIRDS. She has a BA from Amherst College and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her short stories have appeared in several literary publications, including The Atlantic Monthly and Ploughshares, and she has won fellowships to the Vermont Studio Center and Yaddo.

Good To Know

Many-if not most-of my ancestors are Mennonite or Amish, all Pennsylvania Dutch-my grandfather still can speak Pennsylvania Dutch, and there's a Groffdale in Lancaster County filled with people who look curiously like me.

I spent a year between high school and college as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student in Nantes, France-mostly in the house of a family with a catering business (when I returned from France, I'd gained so much weight that my parents didn't recognize me at first in the airport).

My sister Sarah is an elite triathlete, fourth in the US, trying to make the an Olympic berth for Beijing this summer. She's definitely my hero.

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    1. Hometown:
      Gainesville, FL, USA
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 23, 1978
    2. Place of Birth:
      Cooperstown, NY, USA
    1. Education:
      BA English and French Literature, Amherst College, 201: MFA in Fiction, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Arcadia


By Lauren Groff

voice

Copyright © 2012 Lauren Groff
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4013-4087-2


Chapter One

Bit is already moving when he wakes. It is February, still dark. He is five years old. His father is zipping Bit within his own jacket where it is warmest, and Abe's heart beats a drum against Bit's ear. The boy drowses as they climb down from the Bread Truck, where they live, and over the frosted ground of Ersatz Arcadia. The trucks and buses and lean-tos are black heaps against the night, their home until they can finish Arcadia House in the vague someday.

The gong is calling them to Sunday Morning Meeting, somewhere. A river of people flows in the dark. He smells the bread of his mother, feels the wind carrying the cold from the Great Lake to the north, hears the rustling as the forest wakes. In the air there is excitement and low, loving greetings; there is small snow, the smoke from someone's joint, a woman's voice, indistinct.

When Bit's eyes open again, the world is softened with first light. The tufts of the hayfield push up from under trampled snow. They are in the Sheep's Meadow and he feels the bodies closer now, massing. Handy's voice rises from behind Bit and up toward all of Arcadia, the seven dozen true believers in the winter morning. Bit twists to see Handy sitting among the maroon curls of the early skunk cabbage at the lip of the forest. He turns back, pressing his cheek against the pulse in his father's neck.

Bit is tiny, a mote of a boy. He is often scooped up, carried. He doesn't mind. From against the comforting strength of adults, he is undetected. He can watch from there, he can listen.

Over Abe's shoulder, far atop the hill, the heaped brick shadow of Arcadia House looms. In the wind, the tarps over the rotted roof suck against the beams and blow out, a beast's panting belly. The half-glassed windows are open mouths, the full-glassed are eyes fixed on Bit. He looks away. Behind Abe sits the old man in his wheelchair, Midge's father, who likes to rocket down the hill at the children, scattering them. The terror washes over Bit again, the loom and creak, the flash of a toothless mouth and the hammer-and-sickle flag as it flaps in passing. The Dartful Codger, Hannah calls the old man, with a twist to her mouth• The Zionist, others call him, because this is what he shouts for after sundown: Zion, milk and honey, land of plenty, a place for his people to rest. One night, listening, Bit said, Doesn't the Dartful Codger know where he is? and Abe looked down at Bit among his wooden toys, bemused, saying, Where is he? and Bit said, Arcadia, meaning the word the way Handy always said it, with his round Buddha face, building the community with smooth sentences until the others can also see the fields bursting with fruits and grains, the sunshine and music, the people taking care of one another in love.

In the cold morning, though, the Dartful Codger is too small and crabbed for terror. He is almost asleep under a plaid blanket Midge has tucked around him. He wears a hunter's cap, the earflaps down. His nose whistles, and steam spurts from it, and Bit thinks of the kettle on the hob. Handy's voice washes over him: ... work, as in pleasure, variety is evidently the desire of nature ... words too heavy for the soft feet of this morning. As the dawn light sharpens, the Dartful Codger becomes distinct. Veins branch across his nose, shadows gouge his face. He rouses himself, frowns at Bit, shuffles his hands on his lap.

... God, says Handy, or the Eternal Spark, is in every human heart, in every piece of this earth. In this rock, in this ice, in this plant, this bird. All deserve our gentleness.

The old man's face is changing. Astonishment steals over the hoary features. Startled, Bit can't look away. The eyes blink but come to a stop, open. Bit waits for the next puff of smoke from the cragged nose. When it doesn't come, a knot builds in his chest. He lifts his head from Abe's shoulder• A slow purple spreads over the old man's lips; a fog, an ice, grows over his eyeballs. Stillness threads itself through the old man.

At Bit's back, Handy talks of the music tour he is going on in a few days, to spread the word of Arcadia.... be gone for a couple of months, but I have faith in you Free People. I'm your guru, your Teacher, but not your Leader. Because when you've got a good enough Teacher, you're all your own Leaders ... and the people around Bit laugh a little, and somewhere little Pooh screams, and Hannah's hand comes from Bit's side and smoothes down his cap, which has come half off, his one ear cold.

Handy says, Remember the foundations of our community. Say them with me. The voices rise: Equality, Love, Work, Openness to the Needs of Everyone.

A song boils up, Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, they sing. Abe shifts under Bit to the rhythm. Sing a song full of hope that the present has brought us; Facing the rising sun of our new day begun ... the song ends.

A silence. An inhale. In the great Om that rises from the mass of Free People, startled crows speckle up from Arcadia House roof. The sunrise blooms all over them.

In such perfect dawn, even the old man is beautiful, the blue of his beard under the newly luminous skin of his cheek, the softness in his jaw, the tufts in his ears touched golden. He has been gentled in living light. He has been made good.

When the last voice falls silent, just before Handy's Thank you, my friends, Midge puts her hand on her father's shoulder• Then she takes off her glove and presses her bare palm against the old man's cheek. And when Arcadia moves, soul-shakes, hugs, shares its good energy, Midge's voice cuts through the din. Father? she calls out, low. Louder, then: Father?

It is not in the speed with which Hannah grabs Bit and rushes him back home to the Bread Truck, or the fact that Abe stays behind to help Midge. It is not in the special treat, the dried blueberries in the porridge, or Hannah standing, wordless at the window, blowing on her green tea. It is not even what Abe says when he comes in: Karmic energy rejoining the ether, or Natural, the cycle of life, or Everybody dies, Ridley, honey. Abe does his best, but Bit still doesn't understand. He saw the old man turn beautiful. He wonders at the worry on his parents' faces.

The sadness they feel begins to crack open only when Hannah drops the dirty breakfast dishes on the table and bursts into tears. She rushes out over the Quad to the Pink Piper, to the comfort of Marilyn and Astrid, the midwives.

Abe gives Bit a tight smile. He says, Your mama's okay, Little Bit. It's just, this morning struck a deep chord with her because her own papa's not doing so hot right now.

In this Bit smells the small sulfur of a lie. Hannah has not been herself for a while. Bit lets the untruth slowly dissolve away.

Hannah's dad who lives in Louisville? he says. In the fall, the grandparents had visited, a fat man in a porkpie hat, a nervous puff of a woman in all pink. Bit had been squeezed, remarked upon: So tiny, the woman had trilled, I would have said under three, not five years old! There were sideways looks at him, and Hannah saying through gritted teeth: He's not retarded, he's fine, he's just really small, God, Morn. There was a meal that the pink lady wouldn't touch, a handkerchief lifted to the corners of her eyes every few seconds. There was a bad argument, then the fat and the puff went away.

As her parents drove off, Hannah'd had angry tears in her eyes. She'd said, May they rot in their bourgeois capitalist hell. Abe had laughed gently at her, and after a minute, the fierceness fell from Hannah's face. Grudgingly, she had laughed, too.

Abe says now, Yeah, your Louisville granddaddy. He has a wasting disease. Your grandma wants your mother down there, but Hannah won't go. Anyways, we can't spare her.

Because of the Secret, Bit says. Everyone has been whispering about the Secret for a month, since Handy announced his music tour. While Handy is gone, they will finish Arcadia House so they can all move out of Ersatz Arcadia, that loose mishmash of buses and lean-tos, and, at last, live together. They had meant to these three years, ever since they bought the land and found the house, but they were distracted by hunger and hard work. Arcadia House is to be a gift to Handy when he returns.

Abe's eyes crinkle and his lips split to show his strong teeth in the red of his beard. I guess it isn't a secret if even the little guys know, he says.

They play a game of Go Fish until Hannah returns, her face raw but calmer. She tells them that Astrid and Marilyn have been called to the Amish neighbors' for a birthing. For a hello, Hannah rests her cheek in the crook of Abe's neck for a moment and kisses Bit gently on the forehead. Like a sigh into breath, life releases into life. Hannah turns to stoke the woodstove. Abe fixes the drafty chink where he had built the lean-to against the Bread Truck. They eat dinner and Abe plays a tune on the harmonica and when night falls all three curl on the pallet together, and Bit sleeps, a hickory nut within the shell of his parents.

The forest is dark and deep and pushes so heavily on Bit that he must run away from the gnarled trunks, from the groans of the wind in the branches. His mother calls for him to stay in sight, but he doesn't slow. When he comes into the clearing by the Gatehouse, his face smarts with cold.

Titus, pocked and immense, heaves up the gate. He seems old, older even than Handy, because he was damaged in Vietnam. Bit adores Titus. Titus calls Bit Hop o'My Thumb and can lift him with one palm and will sometimes even smuggle Bit a few goodies from the Outside—pink coconut cake in cellophane or peppermints like bloodshot eyes—despite the ban on sugar and the harm surely done to animals in making the goodies. Bit believes the treats' chemical afterburn is what the world beyond Arcadia must taste like. Titus slips him a throat-thickening butterscotch in a crinkle of yellow paper and winks, and Bit buries his face in his friend's greasy jeans for a moment before he hurries on.

All Arcadia has gathered on the frozen road to say goodbye. Handy sits in lotus on the nose of the Blue Bus with his four blond children: Erik and Leif and Helle and Ike. His main wife, Astrid, tall and white-haired, gazes up at them. She unknots a hemp necklace from her throat and ties it around Handy's neck, kissing him over his third eye. Even above the roar of the engine, the radio belts out a jiggly country song. Handy's other wife, Lila, who wears feathers in her black hair, sits with skinny little Hiero, her other husband. The band hugs those they are leaving behind and lugs their stuff up into the bus, then Handy passes the children down: Ike, inches taller than Bit though a year younger; Helle, froggy as her father; Leif, who is always angry; chubby Erik, who slides to the ground by himself and lands on his knees and tries not to cry.

On the Gatehouse porch, Wells and Caroline argue with flushed faces. Bit's friend Jincy peers from parent to parent. Though the wind makes her curly hair spring in ten directions, her face is pale and still.

From the path comes a sweetness of bells, of voices. Out of nowhere, great broad heads of giants bob in the branches. Bit's gut swirls with loveliness. Onto the road come the Circenses Singers, Hans and Fritz and Summer and Billy-goat, in their white robes, carrying the Adam and Eve puppets. These are new-made creatures, naked and huge with flushed genitals. The Circenses Singers go off on the weekends to protests and rallies, staging dances at concerts, sometimes busking for change. Now the robed people bend and sing under the vast and eerie bodies above them. When they finish, everyone cheers and they pack the great bulbous beasts into the back of a Volkswagen van.

Bye-bye-bye-bye, shouts brown little Dylan from Sweetie Fox's arms. Bit runs to his friend Coltrane, who is poking at an icy puddle with a stick. Cole gives Bit the stick, and Bit pokes, too, then hands the stick to Cole's brother, Dylan, and Dylan waves it around.

Gingery Eden, her pregnant belly enormous, cracks a bottle of pop over the hood of the Blue Bus and rubs her back when she stands. The dazzle of her white teeth under her copper hair makes Bit want to dance.

Handy shouts about how they'll be back before Spring Planting, and the Free People huzzah, and Tarzan hands up a cooler of beer the Motor Pool sold an engine to pay for, and Astrid lays a long kiss on Lila's pretty lips, and Hiero does, too, and slides to the ground, and there are other kisses, the band's chicks and wives smooching up into the windows, and then the engine gets louder and the bus starts to move off toward the County Road. Everyone cheers and some people cry. In Arcadia, people cry all the time. Others do funny dances, laughing.

Helle stumbles after the bus, sobbing for her father. She is always in tears, the bigheaded, strange-looking little girl, always screaming. Astrid scoops Helle up, and the girl wails into her mother's chest. The bus's sound softens and filters away. The noises they are left with seem doubly loud in the quiet: the ice that cracks in the branches, the wind like sandpaper across the surface of the snow, the flap of the prayer flags strung across the Gatehouse porch, the squeak of rubber boots on frozen mud.

When Bit turns, everyone is looking at his father. Abe grins at them, the ones who can't play music, the four dozen left behind. They seem so few. Abe calls loudly, All righty, everybody. Are you ready to work your bones to sawdust and shards?

Yes, they shout. Bit wanders back to Hannah, and rests his head against her hip. She blocks the wind and warms his face with her heat.

Motor Pool, you ready to go out into the wilds of New York and salvage and steal and sell your sperm and blood to buy what we need to do this?

Hells, yes! shouts Peanut, and behind him, Wonder Bill and Tarzan pump their fists.

Womenfolk, are you ready to clean and polish and varnish and scrape and sand and take care of the kidlets and operate the Bakery and Soy Dairy and Laundry and cook and clean and chop wood and do the everyday stuff we need done to keep we Free People going strong while all this work's happening?

The women cheer, and way above Bit's head, Astrid mutters to Hannah in her strange lilt, As if it is not what we already do, already. Bit looks away. When Astrid speaks, she shows her teeth, and they are so yellow and crooked he feels he's looking at something private.

All you Pregnant Ladies from the Henhouse, you ready to sew those curtains and braid those rugs and make the rooms all cozy and homey? Scattered yeses, the Hens surprised into acquiescence. A baby begins to squall.

Abe shouts: All you men, ready to work in the cold and stink of that old house to get her up and ready, with plumbing and a roof and everything? The men yell and yodel.

Abe's face goes solemn; he raises a hand. One thing, my cats and chicks. I know we're a nonhierarchieal society and all, but since I've got my degree in engineering and Hiero has all those years under his belt as a construction foreman, we were thinking we'd be the ones to report to, yeah? We're just the straw bosses here, so if you got a better idea to do something, just let us know. But run things by us before you go off on your own initiative to do new stuff and we have to waste our time and dough to undo it. Anyways, serious talk over. We got about four more good hours of daylight today and only three months to totally refinish a fallen-apart nineteenth-century mansion. Or orphanage or whatever it was. So let's get our beautiful beatnik asses cracking.

A shout, a rush, and the group steams forward, up the mile-long drive scabbed with ice. They laugh, they are warm, they are ready. The last time Bit was in Arcadia House, he saw a sapling growing in a clawfoot tub and the roof caved in to show the clouds and sun. How wonderful it will be to have the house finished, tight and warm. If sleeping in a nest with two parents is happiness, imagine sleeping with eighty! Children dart around the legs of the adults until Sweetie Fox rounds them up and takes them down the shortcut to the Pink Piper to play.

Bit falls behind, feeling something gone wrong. He turns back.

Hannah stands alone at the gate. The ground is muddy around her. Bit hears a bird's low call. He begins to walk back toward his mother. When he is almost the whole way to her and she still seems small, he runs. She is hunched in an old sweater of Abe's, shivering. Her face is folded in on itself, and though he knows she is twenty-four, she seems younger than Erik, younger than Jincy, as young as Bit himself. He takes off his mitten to put his hand in hers. Her fingers are ice.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Arcadia by Lauren Groff Copyright © 2012 by Lauren Groff. Excerpted by permission of voice. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    There are books I've read that resonate long after they have bee

    There are books I've read that resonate long after they have been finished. Arcadia will be one of them. Arcadia was recommended in NY Times Books Editor Janet Maislin's Best Books of 2012 article, and while I don't usually follow many suggestions, in this case, reading the blurb struck in inner chord.

    The author found the unusual combination of a lyrical writing voice and perfect pacing in a story filled with multiple levels of emotion, discord and one of the most evocative settings I've read in recent fiction. Arcadia is the story of a young boy growing into manhood in and through his Vegan commune upbringing. Ms. Gross has presented one of the most generous, even-handed portrayals of the spirit of the utopian ideals that founded communal experiments all over this country in the 1960s and 70s. Setting the book in upstate New York, long a hothouse of utopian villages and communities, was a perfect decision. Her sense of place is seamlessly integrated into her writing, and the lack of info-dumping made for a noticeably quick read.

    Having lived myself, in a commune in the West in the early 1970s, her story line contained many scenes that seemed to spring right out of my own experiences. In many ways, Arcadia became a personal journey for me as well. There were many mistakes made in the scramble to produce a new world and a better way to cement true community, Many are still ongoing, and this book, in all its loving attention to detail and its deep understanding of how young boys become men, reminds us of the rewards that taking risks can provide. It is one of the best novels I've read in some time, so I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates a well-told, deeply emotional story and has an interest in those times and how they still live on today in the lives of all us old, ex-hippies.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2014

    Beats

    Hi

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2013

    Loved the assortment of commune characters! Sad when the book en

    Loved the assortment of commune characters! Sad when the book ended, as I wanted it to continue. Has a feminist flare, importance of women in the role of keeping society together. Friendships. Betrayals. A wonderful life cycle read, with Bit as central male character.
    Addresses the role of societies, freedom or control? Why did communes fail?
    What happens when global warming worsens? If there is a pandemic? The story spans the 1960s through 2018s or later.
    Plan on reading her othe book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    interesting read

    IREAD THIS FOR BOOKCLUB. IT WAS REALLY HARD TO GET INTO AT FIRST. THERE ARE SO MANY CHARACTERS IT IS A BIT TOUGH TO KEEP THEM ALL STRAIGHT. YOU JUST WANT TO RESCUE LITTLE BIT FROM THE COMMUNE WITH ALL IT'S DRUGS,AND HUNGRY POOR PEOPLE; BUT HE GROWS UP AND BECOMES A WONDERFUL PERSON. THIS PROBABLY IS A PRETTY GOOD SNAPSHOT IN TIME OF THE COMMUNE LIFE AND A POSSIBLE FURTURISTIC TAKE ON THINGS TO COMES.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2013

    Haunting..brilliant

    One of the most haunting books i have ever read. Born in 62 less than 60 miles from where woodtock took place i have always been fascinated my hippie culture and coomune movement. This novel shows the good the bad and ugly...from the childrens point of view. Effected me more than any book i have read in years. Felt characters were people i knew that stayed with long after i read the final page.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2012

    Very engaging

    I read this book over a weekend, it was awesome the way she followed the character though out his life continuing on well into adulthood. She didn't leave you wondering what happed to Bit she told you all about him and his life. Great book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2014

    Breathtaking in its beauty

    A mesmerizing tale of a commune and its variedinhabitants told through the story of one inhabitant.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2014

    So beautiful

    Dreamlike, gritty, engaging - I recommend it to book lovers.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2014

    I had no idea what the author's intentions where for this book.

    I had no idea what the author's intentions where for this book.   Throughout the book, I could not keep up with the story line
    with the usage of her words.  Were the thoughts coming from her writings or of the characters speaking?  There were no quotation marks when
    people were speaking.  I skimmed the whole book and in the end had no idea what she was trying to say.  Extremely disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2014

    Al

    Wow thanks so much for joining our clan. *poker face*

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2014

    Thought-provoking read

    I wanted to read this book to get a glimpse of what living on a 1960's commune would be like. I got that and much more. The book follows main character Bit from his birth and teen years on the commune to his living back in modern society to deciding where he needs to continue to live. It is a kind of dreamy book that flows along just like every one of our own life journeys. A different and lovely read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2014

    Treble

    She shook her head, grinning. "Bravo, dear. Bravo."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2014

    Elynette

    "Shank ya!" She laughed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2014

    Avaeonai

    She clapped again, making a seal noise.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2014

    What th

    What th

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2013

    Love this author's writing!

    I began this book with a little skepticism, but it was soon negated. The author, Lauren Groff, writes so lyrically and beautifully that I was quickly pulled into the story. The setting is one that I haven't seen explored very often - a hippie commune beginning in the 60s. The story follows one of the children through to adulthood and his experience in the outside world. I so look forward to seeing what Ms. Groff continues to write...she is only 35!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2013

    Poetically Beautiful

    Story of a young boy growing up in a commune in the 70's and his life through adulthood. Lauren Groff's writing is poetic - this book definitly takes your breath away

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2013

    Disappointed toward the end

    Very enjoyable read but with a very sullen second half

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2012

    very good read!

    very good read!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2012

    a bit of a drudge

    I'm sure for people mor of the time, this is a great book, but I found it a bit tough going with little redeeming qualities.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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