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
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 😉
Good novel about idealism, protests, and the success or futility of it all depending upon the person and his/her ability to weather disappointment in others and society in general.
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.
This is a brilliant and skillful debut novel. Its intimately developed and humane characters, and ageless themes (youth and loss, false dichotemies, and flawed leaders, among others) allow a piece set in the 1980s to transcent its period and feel startlingly relvant in 2018. Heather Abel's writting style is compelling and fluid, and she speaks to the reader in an accessible yet sophisticated manner. I eagerly await more from this promising author.
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:
The “Optimistic Decade” when so many thought they could effectuate change by writing and talking and discussing. This was the time of self-discovery by the young while the adults were busy elsewhere. Behind all this optimism the large corporations fed the marginalized promises of more and better opportunities. For small isolated towns it was a modern-day gold rush, but when the profits did not materialize towns were decimated and inhabitants lost everything.
Constantly jabbing at me was the unive ...more
I don't know, this one just didn't gel for me. I rarely knew what was even happening in each scene, there were too many characters that were too ill-defined, and none of their motivations made sense. The plot sounded interesting, but the writing style really made it a slog. Do not read the summary and go into this thinking it's going to be about a 90's summer camp that slowly turns into a cult. This is a slow-moving character drama with no action and little drama. Despite a few moments of genuin ...more