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 Abel’s novel is a brilliant exploration of the bloom and fade of idealism and how it forever changes one’s life. (From Goodreads)
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 good guy to be mentoring others. Out of all of them though, David was my favorite. He was just so sweet and reminiscent of people I knew when I was a young adult.
I enjoyed the political undertones of this book, it wasn’t in your face, and shoved down your thought. It was just simply what was going on in the outside world, and how it affected this group of people (well everyone actually). “The Optimistic Decade” travels through the Regan and Bush Sr. Era, it covers idealism, political activism, and the ideological dreamers, who wanted to make changes. It was important than, and it’s more important in the world we live in now. I really just enjoyed this book, it’s unlike anything I typically read and I am so grateful it was sent to me by Algonquin. I love finding new books to fall in love with, and new Authors to follow.
Have you guys read this? Please comment below and let me know your thoughts. Any recommendations for similar books?
“One had to at all times remain free of the delusion that anybody was who you believed them to be.”