Bit,the main character, grows up in Arcadia, on a back to the land commune in the wilderness of upstate New York. The residents call themselves “The Free People.” Groff describes Bit turned loose in nature, grabbing an icicle for a wintry treat: “He licks it down to nothing, eating winter itself, the captured woodsmoke and sleepy hush and aching cleanness of ice.”
Bit is the only child of charismatic and capable parents who helped found Arcadia. Abe, leads the restoration of an old mansion on their 600 acres. Abe is the practical and handy thinker; he had a degree in engineering. This contrasts with the commune’s dreamy-musician leader, Handy whose slogan is “everyone works” but he dosen’t. Bit’s mother, Hannah, is tall, golden and lovely, the hardest worker in the group, until the winter Bit is 5 and depression immobilizes her.
Bit love the community, so many people to love him and cuddle him as a child, freedom to wander and explore, intellectual freedom to explore different ideas. As a child he is afraid to leave the commune. But he has to as the community disperses as the like most communes of the era it implodes.
Arcadia is an interesting book but the author, Groff, over reaches the themes of the book with bits the mother’s illness at the end of the book. But it is still an interesting read.