The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel

The Optimistic Decade

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 liv...

Details The Optimistic Decade

TitleThe Optimistic Decade
Release DateMay 1st, 2018
PublisherAlgonquin Books
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction

Reviews The Optimistic Decade

  • Cody | codysbookshelf
    “Politics was aesthetics, and everything was aesthetics, really, if you thought about it. A man in a turban and white tunic glided by on roller skates. A woman in a wheelchair held the leashes of two dogs that pulled her along the path, American flags waving from the back of her chair. There were bikinied women swaying back and forth on Rollerblades. Teenagers on lowriders eating cones of soft-serve while biking. Men biking while holding boom b...
  • Erin White
    This is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. It’s about all sorts of interesting and complex ideas (failed utopia, 80s oil boom and bust, radicalism and its discontents) yet somehow written in incredibly tender and funny and lovely prose. The characters are flawed and so loveable, and I found myself laughing at their ridiculousness, worried over their mistakes, and tearing up at how vulnerable they were because of all their de...
  • Kate Olson
    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 😉
  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    Set in the American West in the 1990s, this is a look at idealism, activism, and the feeling that you may not really be making a difference in the world. It’s been compared to The Interestings a lot, and I can see why people would make that comparison. I felt, however, that story was somewhat unfocused and that simplifying it may have made this a better book.
  • Jacqueline
    This book was aiite. It almost reminded me exactly of The Interestings, which I finished not too long ago and enjoyed quite a bit (I actually read that one feverishly, on a long 11 hour plane ride, and closed my Kindle with my eyes sore and my head aching from a book hangover). Anyway, spoiler alert, I did not like this book nearly as much as The Interestings. I'm not sure if it's because: 1) most of the book was set in rural Colorado, deliberate...
  • John C
    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...
  • Helen Fernandez
    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.
  • Laura
    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.
  • Sue Jackson
    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:
  • Jennifer
    ummm... okay. so, my feelings about this novel seem to be running counter to the majority. while i appreciated abel's writing, the story just didn't work for me. i found the characters didn't develop well enough, and there was a depth to it all that felt lacking. i am drawn to stories about communal living, and cults. generally, with these types of novels, levels of emotion and charisma of the characters run higher, are palpable. i just didn't fe...
  • Karlan
    This coming of age story has an unusual setting, interesting characters and skillful writing. A ranch for young campers in a hot, dry area of the Colorado mountains is almost a living character. The shy, inexperienced 19 year old camper who finds love is believably portrayed. The charismatic owner could be a cult figure. The political protests of the Reagan and Bush era add depth to the story. High school students who read adult fiction should re...
  • Margo Littell
    When Caleb stumbles upon a tough and beautiful ranch in Colorado, he knows it’s the perfect place to build the idealistic camp he’s been dreaming of. He twists the truth to buy the land, but along the way he constructs a new origin story for how the camp--which he calls Llamalo--came to be. In 1990, teenage Rebecca--raised on the strident leftism of her parents and their political newspaper--attends Llamalo, reuniting with a former crush, Dav...
  • Karen
    This is a very complex novel with interconnecting themes. It raises many questions about the relationships between self, environment, and community, how we learn to live meaningful, fulfilling lives as adults, and how we can find a balance between optimism and realism -- rather than becoming bitter and cynical. Themes about class, religion, Jewish identity, and anti-Semitism are also skillfully interwoven into the story. The characters are extrem...
  • Michelle Nijhuis
    Beautifully captures the contradictions of a place I lived in for a long time, and still love. Highly recommended.
  • Kathryn Bashaar
    Warning: this review contains some mild spoilersThis story mostly takes place in the early 1990s, with some flashbacks to the 80s. Rebecca Silver has been raised by activist parents who run a left-wing newspaper. Her deep desires are to please them and to be like them. An excellent student, Rebecca is looking forward to working for her parents the summer after her first year of college. They surprise her by insisting, instead, that she spend her ...
  • Tracy (The Pages In-Between)
    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 fou...
  • Corey Farrenkopf
    If you’re looking for a timely novel, set in the high desert of Colorado, with fully realized characters who you’ll love then hate then love again, check out The Optimistic Decade. There's a good dose of cult/communal living, contemplation of love in its many forms, and a sense of youthful urgency that feels 100% authentic. The writing is also beautiful line by line, especially when Abel describes the desert/mountains/ranch/ditch/river/scrubl...
  • Julie
    I know. I know. You are looking at the early reviews of this book on this page, and most of them are overwhelmingly positive. And then here I come, the Naysayer, the Grump, the Whiny Whiner Who Whines. . . And I get it. From an objective standpoint, I can see what people liked about The Optimistic Decade. For one thing, it was well written, maybe even exceptionally so, considering this is an author’s debut novel. The camp landscape descriptions...
  • Linda
    This one just never really grabbed me, I'm sorry to say, part of it because of the amount of young adult discovering their sexuality and the use of thee "F" word. I'm not really a prude, but it just hit me wrong.
  • nikkia neil
    Thanks Algonquin Books and netgalley for this ARC. The 80's, summer camp, overbearing radial parents, and weird take on the world marching orders makes this a comical coming of age nutter.
  • Debbie
    It is difficult to describe this book. It is a coming-of-age story (sort of), a story about love in all its many forms (sort of), and a story of hope even during times of despair (sort of). It is not always clear where the author is going with this story and the characters are quirky but very human. Perhaps, it is best described as a story of idealism, which most of us have in our 20s, but which often erodes as we get older and get worn down by r...
  • Mandi Schneck
    The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel is a literary fiction read that follows a cast of characters at Llamalo, a utopian summer camp out in the Rocky Mountains. Rebecca, a social-conscious college student, has been shipped off to be a counselor instead of getting to work on her family's paper. David, a seventeen year old nobody, has been coming to Llamalo for years, and hopes to move there permanently when he turns eighteen. Caleb, leader of the ...
  • Ryan
    I received this book through a Goodreads Giveaway, and I would like to thank the author and Algonquin Books for the free copy. Heather Abel's The Optimistic Decade transports readers back into the era of Reagan and Bush Sr., showing how a varied cast of characters who are used to challenging corruption and injustice with idealism must deal with the perceived futility of their actions. The story offers insights about ideological exhaustion and jad...
  • Jessica
    Almost done, can't put this book down!!
  • Rachel Stansel
    A coming of age story built around a group of high school and college age kids and a summer camp unlike any other. While the kids work towards a sort of Utopia, the outside world of oil and mines, war in the middle east and general apathy is closing in. A strong first novel.full disclosure - I received a copy of the novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
  • Lila
    This is a brilliant book. It is an incredible, probing story following five characters through the boom and bust era of the Reagan and Bush years. It's about idealism and political activism and everything we need to read about right now.
  • Bookish
    A young man grieving the loss of his father searches for direction in his life. Caleb happens upon a bit of land where he feels a deep peace, and he wants to share it. He opens a summer camp for youth, where he teaches about the land and shares his philosophy. He changes lives, and he believes himself. Complex and compelling.
  • Nancy Mijangos
    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.
  • BJ
    So I had the opportunity through Netgalley to read this book before it is released today, May 1. I promised them a fair review, so here you go.The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel is a book about an extended family of radical American liberals. (We assume the May 1 publication date to be a coincidence). The story centers around Llamalo, a summer camp located in Colorado in a true, honest-to-goodness-tarantula-walking wilderness. The idea is that...
  • Taylor Bush
    I honestly don’t even know where to begin with this book. It’s god awful. I wanted so badly to like it just like I know this book wanted to be good, but it severely misses the mark.Everything about the book is just so trite. Characters are cookie-cutter, rationales and motivation are thin, she tells more than shows and everything is dialed up to the extreme. I get that Heather Abel wanted to write a book about idealism and specifically the ad...