Arcadia by Lauren Groff is an intensely character-driven story about a boy named Bit Stone. It is told in four sections, during four different periods of his life. During the first two sections, Bit is growing up in an idealistic commune called Arcadia, and this setting forms Bit into a sensitive, quiet, and open-hearted man. In our usual poll to open the discussion, only about five participants reported liking the book. However, an hour was not enough time to finish our discussion, which reveals how rich the story really was.
- The Arcadian commune was built on the principles of equality, peace, shared work for the common good, love (and free love), and a back-to-nature spirit. Its downfall is overpopulation, freeloaders, and human nature.
- Groff’s writing style is magnificent but maybe overly lyrical, sometimes hard for us to follow. She does write some truly gorgeous sentences that many of us wrote down to look at later.
- We appreciated how some characters and stories are left open-ended and others are resolved. Minor characters like the Amish come back, but we are left to speculate about a major character, the mother of Bit’s child.
- Why is Bit described as so physically tiny? Maybe to say that small people can do big things! Or maybe his size allows him to always be hugged and touched and picked up by the community. His small physical size is in contrast to his very large but vulnerable spiritual side.
Groff’s lovely novel is a book in which you can lose yourself. By the same token, we all agreed that it was best to read in a book club setting because of the ease with which you can get bogged down.
Our next book is hefty, so start reading now! Pick up 11/22/63 by Steven King for an alternate history of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. We’ll meet on March 11 at 11 a.m. to discuss it.