NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
"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
"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
In the fields of western New York State in the 1970s, a few dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding a commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this romantic utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday. Arcadia's inhabitants include Handy, the charismatic leader; his wife, Astrid, a midwife; Abe, a master carpenter; Hannah, a baker and historian; and Abe and Hannah's only child, Bit. While Arcadia rises and falls, Bit, too, ages and changes. He falls in love with Helle, Handy's lovely, troubled daughter. And eventually he must face the world beyond Arcadia.
In Arcadia, Groff displays her literary gifts to stunning effect.
"It's not possible to write any better without showing off."---Richard Russo, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Empire Falls
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.