Did you read Lauren Groff’s debut novel, The Monsters ofTempleton? Did you think it was terrific? Me too. Were you disappointed and/or disinterested by book two the short story collection (As often predicted.) Delicate Edible Birds? Well fear not. Groff’s new book, Arcadia, is a novel.
Arcadia starts in the late sixties and follows the next fifty years in the life of Ridley Sorrel Stone. Ridley or Bit as he is known begins his life in a commune, Arcadia, with his young parents. Mom and Dad are true believers. They believe that they can achieve a green life, a oneness with the Earth and humanity with new like-minded “family”. But as the song says it ain’t easy being green. The physical toll on the couple of keeping the community going is enormous. The psychological toll is even bigger. Their utopia fails and Ridley/Bit’s life is divided into a before and after. Ridley/Bit’s adult life is a study in the psychological effects of the loss of Arcadia.
I’ll admit when I started the book and realized the time period I was put off. We all have our interests and I have absolutely no interest in the 1960’s. The thought did cross my mind that I could abandon this novel and move on to one of the dozens of other books I have within reading distance. It was my past love of The Monsters of Templeton made me stay the course with Arcadia.I do think that the final third or so of Arcadia was not quite as strong as the rest of the novel but that is a relatively minor quibble. Arcadia was not the novel for me BUT that was a subject matter issue. It is a well written novel with unique point of view that makes interesting use of the past verses the present.
In the end Lauren Groff is very, very good writer. She is a writer whose novels I look forward to.