Some novels allow you to step into a different time and place, and more-fully inhabit it than other books do. Arcadia by Lauren Groff is one such read. Not since reading the excellent Drop City by T. C. Boyle, have I felt like a voyeur at a hippie commune. Arcadia is a crumbling mansion in the 1970's countryside of New York state, where a small group of idealistic hippies set out to create their own Utopian society. They are The Free People, and they wish to harm no one. Unfortunately, they also wish to welcome everyone, and that is their eventual downfall. But in between the beginning and the end of this long, strange trip, there are moments of peace and love. The women are strong and lovely, and there are a few able and willing men. But most of all, there is Bit, a tiny boy with a huge heart. We see this insular world through Bit's eyes, and so we are at the heart of the story. There are a few strong metaphors to classic fairy tales in this novel, but I didn't find them too overdone when seen from little Bit's point of view. There is a hint of cult mentality but not in the sinister way seen in the movie Martha Marcy May Marlene (although it was an excellent movie). As Bit grows up, we see the lasting effects that the dream of Arcadia has on him, his family and the girl he loves.
So, put some flowers in your hair, drop out and listen to some Canned Heat, or read this amazing book.