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With luscious prose Lauren Groff tells the story of Bit, a boy born in the late 1960’s on a VW bus in a snowstorm in Wyoming, as his parents and their communal caravan drive across the U.S. to settle in upstate New York. The community they found soon after his birth, Arcadia, is Bit’s complete world for his first 15 years. Bit’s experiences of poverty, hunger, cold and isolation are presented with intimacy and unsparing realism. But so too are his experiences of love, acceptance, joy in nature and discovery.
“Arcadia” movingly presents the emotional and physical experiences of Bit and his friends, as well as those of the adults of the community, when the inevitable “crisis” occurs that leads to the disintegration of the group and the exodus of most of its members, including Bit and the other children. The story of Bit’s radically different adult life is the second half of the novel. Groff does an excellent job portraying him in his later years in a way that is wholly consistent, and utterly believable, given the child we have come to know so intimately in the earlier part of the book.
I found the reading by Andrew Garman a bit flat at first. However, his understated and undramatic way of reading allowed the beautiful writing to shine through on its own. I never tired of listening to this book, and found that his voice slipped quietly into the background, so that I might have been reading it on the written page rather than listening to it.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
I thought this was a terrific novel--a clear story line with layers of tales under the surface. It spans decades, from the '60s to the not too distant future, and left me contemplating my own future in a new light.
The novel is really beautifully written, the language rich enough to drown in. The characters, with their inevitable flaws, are developed sympathetically. Arcadia is the story of a boy who grows up away from the "real world," in a gigantic commune, where pot, poverty, and extravagant dreams and hopes are constants, and what happens when, inevitably, he must join the rest of the human race.
My criterion for narration is simple: a clear, modulated voice that doesn't overpower the music of the words themselves, as the author wrote them. I had no complaints with this novel.
I wish I had it to read over again--and of course I do, and I will!
6 of 6 people found this review helpful