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The Optimistic Decade (Hardcover)
June 2018 Indie Next List
“When faced with a world you don’t like, do you engage as a social justice advocate or do you head to the wilderness to live off the land and contribute as little as possible to this capitalist society? Rebecca, fresh off of her first year at UC Berkeley and a lifetime of attending rallies and protests with her activist parents, finds herself pondering this question. In a tale that spans the Reagan and George H.W. Bush presidencies and two generations of three interconnected families, Abel skillfully presents arguments for and against following your heart, sticking to your principles, and engaging with the world. Ultimately, we are left to reflect on where we are in our own personal ‘Optimistic Decade,’ and what we will do with that time.”
— Jessica Fowle, Bookbug, Kalamazoo, MI
"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 the Author
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.