The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel

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Is this a book about the failure of Zionism, an exploration of the limits of idealism or a literary coming-of-age novel? It’s a bit of all three. Most interestingly, it doesn’t just rehash the story of the Holy Land we already know, but imagines a new, subversive ending.
-NY Times

Synopsis

“Bighearted, wise, and beautifully written, this sharply observant exploration of idealism gone awry engages at every level.” —Andrea Barrett, author of The Voyage of the Narwhal and Archangel

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.
 

About Heather Abel

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Published May 1, 2018 by Algonquin Books. 368 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Optimistic Decade
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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Zoe Greenberg on May 25 2018

Is this a book about the failure of Zionism, an exploration of the limits of idealism or a literary coming-of-age novel? It’s a bit of all three. Most interestingly, it doesn’t just rehash the story of the Holy Land we already know, but imagines a new, subversive ending.

Read Full Review of The Optimistic Decade | See more reviews from NY Times

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