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The Optimistic Decade
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Published:
Algonquin Books 2018
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Description

"Abel is a perceptive writer whose astute observations keep the book funny and light . . . An exploration of the limits of idealism . . . subversive." —The New York Times Book Review

A smart and sly story about a utopian summer camp, a charismatic leader, and the people who are drawn to his vision, The Optimistic Decade follows four unforgettable characters and a piece of land that changes everyone who lives on it.
There is Caleb, founder of the back-to-the-land camp Llamalo, who is determined to teach others to live simply. There is Donnie, the rancher who gave up his land to Caleb and who now wants it back. There is Rebecca, 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.


The Optimistic Decade brilliantly explores love, class, and the bloom and fade of idealism, and asks smart questions about good intentions gone wrong.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
05/01/2018
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781616208271
ASIN:
B075G3XDY4
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Heather Abel. (2018). The Optimistic Decade. Algonquin Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Heather Abel. 2018. The Optimistic Decade. Algonquin Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Heather Abel, The Optimistic Decade. Algonquin Books, 2018.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Heather Abel. The Optimistic Decade. Algonquin Books, 2018. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
Jun 12, 2018 15:13:20
Date Updated:
Jun 12, 2018 15:13:20
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Nov 28, 2021 02:54:27
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        Heather Abel was raised in Santa Monica, California. She attended Swarthmore College and subsequently worked as a reporter and editor for political newspapers. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, and elsewhere. She received her MFA in fiction from the New School, where she later taught creative nonfiction writing. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with her husband and two daughters.

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shortDescription

"Abel is a perceptive writer whose astute observations keep the book funny and light . . . An exploration of the limits of idealism . . . subversive." —The New York Times Book Review

A smart and sly story about a utopian summer camp, a charismatic leader, and the people who are drawn to his vision, The Optimistic Decade follows four unforgettable characters and a piece of land that changes everyone who lives on it.
There is Caleb, founder of the back-to-the-land camp Llamalo, who is determined to teach others to live simply. There is Donnie, the rancher who gave up his land to Caleb and who now wants it back. There is Rebecca, 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.


The Optimistic Decade brilliantly explores love, class, and the bloom and fade of idealism, and asks smart questions...

isOwnedByCollections
True
title
The Optimistic Decade
fullDescription

"Abel is a perceptive writer whose astute observations keep the book funny and light . . . An exploration of the limits of idealism . . . subversive." —The New York Times Book Review

A smart and sly story about a utopian summer camp, a charismatic leader, and the people who are drawn to his vision, The Optimistic Decade follows four unforgettable characters and a piece of land that changes everyone who lives on it.
There is Caleb, founder of the back-to-the-land camp Llamalo, who is determined to teach others to live simply. There is Donnie, the rancher who gave up his land to Caleb and who now wants it back. There is Rebecca, 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.


The Optimistic Decade brilliantly explores love, class, and the bloom and fade of idealism, and asks smart questions about good intentions gone wrong.

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reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        March 1, 2018

        Set in the 1980s, this coming-of-age tale features Rebecca Silver, a freshman at Berkeley and daughter of Ira Silver, publisher of an influential radical newspaper. Her first 18 years have been a continuing series of causes, rallies, and the pieties of leftist politics. The summer after her freshman year, her parents plan something different, signing her up to be a counselor at Llamalo, a Colorado wilderness camp run by her older cousin Caleb. There she finds her troubled childhood friend David, who has recently quit high school and come to Llamalo believing that he has discovered a path for his own life in the camp's radical simplicity. Slowly, the two become involved, and Rebecca begins to discover an identity outside of political activism. As summer ends, a crisis erupts when Donnie, the son of the rancher from whom Caleb bought Llamalo, returns. Donnie believes that Caleb stole the ranch from his family and attempts to reclaim the land. VERDICT While politics plays a major role in this story, Abel's first foray into fiction is not a political novel. Rather, it is a generous, thoughtful view of youthful passion and idealism seen through the lens of age, as its characters struggle with questions of personal authenticity.--Lawrence Rungren, Andover, MA

        Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from March 26, 2018
        Abel’s politically and psychologically acute debut follows an inexperienced camp counselor, a teenaged camper, and an idealistic and self-deluded 20-something camp director through a summer of changes at a tiny, hippie-flavored camp in the high desert of Colorado in 1990. Caleb, who founded the camp several years earlier, has settled into a routine of introducing rich city and suburban kids to the wild and basking in their admiration. His cousin Rebecca, a student at Berkeley, is, despite her objections, shipped off to the camp by her father to be a counselor for the summer. The only saving grace is the presence of high school junior David, Rebecca’s childhood friend and secret crush. As David attempts to convince a distracted Caleb to allow him to live at the camp year-round and Rebecca is shaken to discover problems with her family back home, the camp is threatened by the son of the former owner of the property it’s on, who feels that Caleb has betrayed his family. Abel combines a wry sense of humor with compassion towards all of her misguided characters. A strong sense of time and place anchors the story, and Abel’s well-crafted plot brings all the strands of the story together into a suspenseful yet believable conclusion. Without landing heavily on any political side, and without abandoning hope, Abel’s novel lightly but firmly raises questions about how class and cultural conflicts play out in the rural West.

      • premium: True
      • source: School Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from May 1, 2018

        In this novel set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Caleb, a dashing young Easterner, longs to create a camp where kids can live simply, work, and enjoy the outdoors. With a loan, he buys a Colorado ranch during a real estate bust. He has the charisma of a cult leader and succeeds in attracting residents, despite a lack of training and the terribly hot summer climate. Rebecca, a new counselor, comes from a family of idealists who publish a weekly paper pointing out the faults of the Reagan and Bush administrations. She has grown up attending rallies and carrying picket signs. At the camp, she is surprised to see that David, a boy whom she considered a nerd back home, is popular with the girls. Teens will be involved in their romance as they discover each other's charms. Tension mounts when the local ranchers demand their land back, and the contrast between the conservative locals and the idealistic camp staff is well described. VERDICT This is an excellent coming-of-age tale with a sympathetic cast of characters. For teens who want a realistic, romantic, and thought-provoking story.-Karlan Sick, formerly at New York Public Library

        Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        April 1, 2018
        In a comic debut, the lives of five characters come undone at a remote Colorado summer camp.It takes more than 300 pages for first-time novelist Abel to reveal the meaning of her title, delivered in the baritone of melancholy Ira Silver, who has shuttered his radical left newspaper: "Maybe everybody has one decade, call it an optimistic decade, when the world feels malleable and the self strong." Twelve pages later, his wife and partner, Georgia, succinctly disagrees: "Such typical Ira bullshit, creating a universal theory out of his own personal malaise." The recipient of this yin and yang commentary is their daughter, Rebecca, a Berkeley undergraduate, late to her own coming-of-age party. As the novel begins, Ira mystifies Rebecca by ordering her to a high-altitude summer camp: "He'd never given her a gift of any kind before, material or experiential." The destination, called Llamalo, is run by her charismatic cousin, Caleb, "his name the birdsong of this place." He tells campers "Llamalo is an invitation to act differently, to be someone new. How often do you get that chance?" Caleb is a bit of a hustler; he bought the failing spread of a small cattle farmer, Don Talc, and his son, Donnie, whose resentment at losing the land morphs into a kind of Cliven Bundy-style rage. Abel is excellent at class resentment and its signifiers--Caleb cleans out the faltering town's clothes and tools and figurines at auction for camp costumes and art projects. Abel writes in larking, pleasurable sentences, letting each protagonist--including David Cohen, devoted camper and Rebecca's childhood friend--wrestle with loneliness and horniness and purpose. The story moves across one summer in the early 1990s, with short, clever flashbacks to the Reagan-era 1980s. But the pacing is off: Very little happens in the first third and too much is crammed into the last stretch.A playful look at Jewish coming-of-age and coming-to-terms in the American West.

        COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        May 1, 2018
        First loves, summer flings, mad crushes, and unrequited longings?set all these heady things against the backdrop of Llamalo, a rugged summer camp in the Colorado mountains and within the context of Reagan-era policies and a looming Gulf War, and the experience is a roller-coaster of high drama and shattered ideals. Caleb Silver founded Llamalo as an intense, back-to-the-earth experience for activist-minded youth. His fervent desire to instill reverence for the environment is matched by equal ardency on the part of returning camper David and counselor Rebecca to take their real-world friendship to the kind of new level befitting enlightened young adults. As David and Rebecca explore unfamiliar emotions, Caleb pines for former counselor Suze as the one who got away. But as camp season winds down, old scores flare up, and Caleb finds himself running afoul of previous owners. Abel's first novel is a finely textured exploration of committed individuals caught in the throes of an idealistic atmosphere.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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Algonquin Books
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