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Customer Review

77 of 82 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life in a Commune, April 3, 2012
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This review is from: Arcadia (Hardcover)
I enjoyed it immensely and the writing was lyrical and lovely. I would recommend this book.
I lived in a commune from the age of 17 to almost 30, so I have to add that fact to my review of Arcadia. I will tell you my thoughts, and they are sort of jumbled together, so it's not a "good" or a "bad".... First, the NAMES for things were soooo reminiscent for me! We had a Home Place (Arcadia is the fictional Homeplace). Our Hatchery was Arcadia's "Pink Palace" for where the babies were born. The Monkey Crew (ours was the Construction Crew) ... "Inside" versus "Outside"... I could go on and on. Basically, we had our own language, and so this fact of Arcadia was astoundingly reminiscent and immensely enjoyable.

I believe it is human nature to rebel against what you know, so I had a hard time buying into Bit's unwavering love and loyalty for Arcadia. All the kids that had been born in my particular commune hated living there with a passion. They hated being different, and they couldn't wait to be old enough to bolt. Of course, now that they're older, they do appreciate the sense of family that existed, plus the fact that they have so many brothers and sisters throughout their lives.

I had a hard time with the author's timing of things. Knowing a thing or two about communes, I didn't buy that Arcadia was going strong while Ronald Reagan was in office (circa early '80's). That was after Jonestown. I believe the concept of the hippie commune was on the wane during that time. And the non-self-sustaining issue was also hard to swallow. For a real commune to exist for so long, they would have had to be way more organized than Arcadia was. The book describes Hannah as being pissed off or depressed a lot of the time because there was no money and no food. No one would put up with that for that long, they'd just leave and go back to reality. Way too many freeloaders/hangers-on were depicted -- I know it doesn't work that way. Everyone has to pull their weight, and then some.

The fictional illness toward the end was just silly and served no purpose whatsoever. I felt the author lost her way with this story line.

Still -- an entertaining read that managed to capture a lot of the love/hate, push/pull and sheer physical discomfort -- alternating with occasional blips of ecstacy -- of communal life.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 9, 2012 5:56:35 AM PDT
there are still communes going strong,that date from the late sixties and early seventies in Southern Colorado and especially in Northern New Mexico. Lama, New Buffalo, Lorien and Libre to name just a few.

Posted on Apr 5, 2013 3:42:13 PM PDT
Carol Ryan says:
I agree with you about the book's timing being slightly off. Communities such as Arcadia were pulled together by a leader such as Handy, but were driven by the counter-culture of the late 60s and very early 1970s--specifically the anti-war anti draft movements. The events in the book in Arcadia would not have occured after Jonestown or Ronald Reagan. The author did get a lot right, though!

Posted on Oct 3, 2013 1:22:55 PM PDT
Hi J. Erlich, after reading your review I would love to read your memoirs, or at least a book that you might feel renders an account (even) better than Arcadia. Coming of age in the '60's, I pined for this type of experience instead of my uptight, materialist (but Lutheran) family. As you said, "It is human nature to rebel against what you know."

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2014 10:08:50 PM PDT
J. Ehrlich says:
Definitely gotta write those memoirs! Try "Drop City" by T.C. Boyle. That was great.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 4, 2014 3:52:43 PM PDT
I agree that DROP CITY is a terrific fictional account of 60's-70's communal life. Have you read Peter Coyote's SLEEPING WHERE I FALL? That is a non-fictional account of that life-style...and, much, much more. It's one of my very favorite reads. And, SUMMER OF LOVE by Joel Selvin...another true story about how much of 'the 60's' culture got started.
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