Thursday, July 25, 2019

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Optimistic Decade, by Heather Abel {ends 8/1}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“For years I was bitter. A constant state of rage because the world hadn’t gone the way I told it to, over and over, week after week, editorial after goddamn editorial!” He shouted this to the air around them, to the cows sleeping standing up, to the lizards scurrying, to the fossils wedged in the shale beneath the car. “The superiority I would feel every time I saw one of the inane bumper stickers. ‘May Peace Prevail on Earth.’ ‘War is not the Answer.’ And for what? What was I doing differently?”

“But all those years you could do it, and then suddenly you can’t?”

“Obviously I’ve given this plenty of thought. And you know” – he sighed – “I’m just not sure. But I have thought this. I’ve thought that maybe everybody has one decade, call it an optimistic decade, when the world feels malleable and the self strong. And then it’s over. It doesn’t come back.”

I could really feel the struggle of all of the characters to hold on to their optimism, and their commitment to doing good, while still trying to be happy being themselves.

Official Synopsis:
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.

This has been one of those books that I liked better once I finished reading it and stepped away. Much of the story was watching several characters head toward disillusionment – which isn’t a fun way to be headed. One of my main goals when I read is escaping the stress of daily life, not to live through additional struggles with the characters. And let’s say my idealism is no longer prominent in my daily choices – my optimistic decade may be already passed.

After a lot of set-up and getting to know our main characters and anticipate their choices, they all encountered some catalyst for change about two-thirds of the way through the book. The timing worked out very well, as one of the character’s back-story was mostly through flashbacks to the establishing of the camp, Llamalo, that they all existed in and around.

I don’t know how true it actually is, but one of my favorite parts of the book were the comparisons between the procedures and rituals at the camp with Jewish mitzvahs – defined in this book as actions they took to be closer to God. I felt like I could relate to the characters who found such comfort in predictable routines.

Overall, I’d give The Optimistic Decade 3.25 stars out of 5. It started a little slow, but I really appreciated the big picture once I had finished reading the book.

{click here to purchase this book - affiliate link.}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mom, reader and lunch lady. You can check out her escapades at


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Optimistic Decade!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, August 1st, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

Open to mainland U.S. only, please (no Alaska or Hawaii residents).

Good luck!

The Optimistic Decade, by Heather Abel


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