This entertaining and assured debut novel about a utopian summer camp and its charismatic leader asks smart questions about good intentions gone terribly wrong. Framed by the oil shale bust and the real estate boom, by protests against Reagan and against the Gulf War, The Optimistic Decade takes us into the lives of five unforgettable characters and is a sweeping novel about idealism, love, class, and a piece of land that changes everyone who lives on it. There is Caleb Silver, the beloved founder of the back-to-the-land camp Llamalo, who is determined to teach others to live simply. There are the ranchers, Don and his son, Donnie, who gave up their land to Caleb and who now want it back. There is Rebecca Silver, determined to become an activist like her father and undone by the spell of both Llamalo and new love; and there is David, a teenager who has turned Llamalo into his personal religion. Heather Abels novel is a brilliant exploration of the bloom and fade of idealism and how it forever changes ones life....
|Title||:||The Optimistic Decade|
|Number of Pages||:||368 pages|
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The Optimistic Decade Reviews
THE book for our crazy times. It grapples seriously with the question: how do you lead a moral life in a world full of lies and cynicism? The author doesn't give in to despair. Nor does she sugarcoat.
The characters are real, complex, flawed. I miss them already.
Thank you Algonquin Books for gifting me a copy of this book. Below is my honest review, and all opinions are my own.
I rate this book a 4 out 5 Stars.
This was an artfully written coming of age story, and it was a fantastic way to kick off my Summer reading. Llamalo was essentially a hippie summer camp in Colorado. I loved the characters in this book, they each brought a uniqueness to the story, and were relatable, charismatic, and loveable. I found Caleb to be funny, and wise beyond his years, a ...more
“Politics was aesthetics, and everything was aesthetics, really, if you thought about it. A man in a turban and white tunic glided by on roller skates. A woman in a wheelchair held the leashes of two dogs that pulled her along the path, American flags waving from the back of her chair. There were bikinied women swaying back and forth on Rollerblades. Teenagers on lowriders eating cones of soft-serve while biking. Men biking while holding boom boxes. A girl like a statue on a skateboard, carrying ...more
I enjoyed this thoughtful novel about different ways to make a difference, set in the early 1990's in western Colorado, after the oil shale bust.
Read my full review and interview with the author:
An amazing book. Just what I needed to read lately. One of the best books I have read in years. I loved the quirky family and strong sense of place. As a SOCAL native myself, I enjoyed the references to Santa Monica and the Southwest. A must read for anyone.
Thanks to the publisher for this review copy!
Colorado desert + political idealism + coming of age + hippie summer camp = a wonderfully unique story that anyone who has ever tried to change the world will enjoy. I adore the concept of all of us having an metaphorical optimistic decade.....I definitely feel like mine is over, but I remember it fondly anyway 😉
This is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. It’s about all sorts of interesting and complex ideas (failed utopia, 80s oil boom and bust, radicalism and its discontents) yet somehow written in incredibly tender and funny and lovely prose. The characters are flawed and so loveable, and I found myself laughing at their ridiculousness, worried over their mistakes, and tearing up at how vulnerable they were because of all their desires- for love, power, land, and each other.
I know. I know. You are looking at the early reviews of this book on this page, and most of them are overwhelmingly positive. And then here I come, the Naysayer, the Grump, the Whiny Whiner Who Whines. . .
And I get it. From an objective standpoint, I can see what people liked about The Optimistic Decade. For one thing, it was well written, maybe even exceptionally so, considering this is an author’s debut novel.
The camp landscape descriptions were absolutely on point. And I even think that the ...more