Georgette's Reviews > Arcadia

Arcadia by Lauren Groff
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Mar 19, 12

it was amazing
bookshelves: awesome
Read on March 18, 2012

What a great book. Bit grows up in a commune. Life is good, until the head of the commune(leader is a tough term for this character, when he resembles a David Koresh-type persona, I'd call him cult leader)begins to show his true colors and those living in the commune begin to revolt. Life at Arcadia turns ugly for Bit as he loses mentors, friends, and people he considered family(the mysterious Verda is a character I wish had been explored more. Maybe Groff could spin her story off into her next book). Handy, the leader, and Abe, Bit's father, butt heads and Bit's family begins to plan their escape. They leave Arcadia(on the heels of many, by the time they leave, there are only 20 people left), and that begins the next chapter of the book.
In the next chapter, you find out that Bit has married Helle, who was his "sweetheart" in the commune, and they have as close to normal of a life as you can after you were raised in a commune. One of the many things I liked was that Groff didn't take an easy way out, you see how growing up in that environment scarred those who were there- including Bit and Helle, whose marriage is not normal by any means. They have a child, Grete, who is a normal everyday teenage. Helle undergoes many mood swings and one day completely disappears. You never quite get the whole story there, but the implication is that she tried to live a normal life, but the urges of that post-communal life continued to haunt her, to the point she leaves her husband and daughter and just vanishes into thin air. Bit then has to struggle with raising his teenage daughter. He also has to struggle with his aging mother, who seperated from his father and lives in the Arizona desert. Eventually, Bit is able to convince her and his father to reunite.
The next chapter is more about the relationship between Bit and his parents. His wheelchair bound father is not doing well, his mother is diagnosed with ALS and is doing worse. They fight on, until one day they make a plan to make things right, and it goes horribly awry. Bit ends up taking care of his mother, who gets worse and worse and moves in with Bit and Grete. You learn a lot about families, the ties that bind, the ties that break, and Bit's tenuous hold on reality in the light of his mother's illness.
The last chapter of the book(I've been calling it chapter, it's more like section) deals with the aftermath of Bit's mother's illness. Basically, he realizes he has to move on with life and stop living in the past, and that includes holding out hope that Helle is going to return, and that he has found love again, and it's time to explore that.
I liked so many things about this book, the unflinching look at life and love in the commune, the repression of revolution in that commune, the effects that the characters took through their lives after they left, and the impression it left. Definitely one of my favorite books this year.
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03/18/2012 page 22
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