Arcadia (Groff) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
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.
Janet Maslin - New York Times


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.
John Wilwol - New York Times Book Review


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.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


(Starred review.) 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.... Split between utopia and its aftermath, the book’s second half tracks the ways in which Bit, now an adult...has been shaped by Arcadia.... The effective juxtaposition of past and future and Groff’s (Delicate Edible Birds) beautiful prose make this an unforgettable read.
Publishers Weekly


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.... 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. —Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI
Library Journal


(Starred review.) This beautifully crafted novel follows Bit Stone, the first child to be born in the late 1960s on an upstate New York commune called Arcadia, from childhood through the year 2018. ...Bit’s family leaves the commune to make their way in the outside world...but happiness proves elusive, both for him and for the greater world, as a flu pandemic sweeps the globe.... Groff’s second novel...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. —Joanne Wilkinson
Booklist


(Starred review.) 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.... A novel of "the invisible tissue of civilization," of "community or freedom," and of the precious fragility of lives in the balance.
Kirkus Reviews




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