"Like the tractor that leaps forward with a nudge of the throttle, Arcadia jumps into high gear. Someone is always breathless, someone is always running. People have long conversations about wood rot and epoxy. There are knocks on the Bread Truck door in the middle of the night, the Scavengers home from Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, Utica... In the morning, Abe whistles while he fondles the intricate carved mantels or soapstone sinks that have magically appeared on the Quad in the Octagonal Barn. He is a whirlwind of plans, sudden private laughs, and his energy spreads into the others, makes even Bit want to dance."
Lauren Groff's Arcadia (Hyperion, 2012) is the beautifully written story of the rise and collapse of an idealistic community in upstate NY in the 1970s. Told from a child's tender and wonder-filled perspective, Arcadia explores the bonds of familial love and the pain of unbearable loss, and in doing so captures all that is good and all that fails horribly in this earnest but tragically misguided place. I am often suspicious of child narrators, all too ready to find them awkward or irritating - and I would never have expected to be so swept away by a novel about a commune - but Groff's charming prose and affectingly flawed characters surprised and enchanted me, start to finish.