Synopses & Reviews
From the bestselling author of The Monsters of Templeton
comes a lyrical and gripping story of a great American dream.
In the fields of western New York State in the 1970s, a few dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding what would become a commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this romantic, rollicking, and tragic utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and after.
Arcadia's inhabitants include Handy, a musician and the group's charismatic leader; Astrid, a midwife; Abe, a master carpenter; Hannah, a baker and historian; and Abe and Hannah's only child, the book's protagonist, Bit, who is born soon after the commune is created.
While Arcadia rises and falls, Bit, too, ages and changes. If he remains in love with the peaceful agrarian life in Arcadia and deeply attached to its residents — including Handy and Astrid's lithe and deeply troubled daughter, Helle — how can Bit become his own man? How will he make his way through life and the world outside of Arcadia where he must eventually live?
With Arcadia, her first novel since her lauded debut, The Monsters of Templeton, Lauren Groff establishes herself not only as one of the most gifted young fiction writers at work today but also as one of our most accomplished literary artists.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"[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
"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
"[A] beautifully crafted novel...[it] gives full rein to [Groff's] 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)
"An astonishing novel, both in ambition and achievement." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Arcadia feels true, as do the characters who populate this extraordinary novel." Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief
"It's not possible to write any better without showing off." Richard Russo, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Empire Falls
"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
About the Author
Lauren Groff is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Monsters of Templeton and the critically acclaimed short story collection Delicate Edible Birds. She has won Pushcart and PEN/O. Henry prizes, and has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers. Her stories have appeared in publications including the New Yorker, the Atlantic, One Story, and Ploughshares, and have been anthologized in Best American Short Stories 2007 and 2010, and Best New American Voices 2008. She lives in Gainesville, Florida, with her husband and two sons.