Even though it is fall, flowers can still brighten up a rainy day: call it flower power! Much the same can be said for a small genre of novels that I will call hippie lit.
The lighter side of this genre must, by necessity, include Tom Robbins, in particular his first novel Another Roadside Attraction. In it, a countercultural couple open a combination zoo/hot dog stand in the Pacific Northwest. Many misadventures follow. Filled with bizarre characters in surreal situations, this book is a real trip.
Also on the lighter side of life, is young adult author Gordon Korman’s Schooled. Middle school-aged Capricorn “Cap” Anderson is forced by circumstance to change schools: from being home-schooled on the rural commune he was raised on to being a student at the very mainstream Claverage Middle. Once there, he soon learns that he can run for class president: an unconventional young man in a very conventional situation.
And then, there’s the children’s novel Mr. And Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire!, written by Mrs. Bunny (and “translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath”). Set on Hornby Island, BC, the story begins when Madeline’s hippy parents are kidnapped. She seeks the assistance of the Bunnys in finding their whereabouts. The detectives and Madeline follow a funny trail along which we meet sinister foxes, a marmot and a shadowy Bunny Council. Are the parents found? Find out!
On a more serious note are two adult novels: Drop City by T. C. Boyle and Arcadia by Lauren Groff. In Drop City (named after a real commune in New Mexico), a group of commune dwellers travel from California, up the coast, to Alaska in the hopes of starting fresh in the wilderness. But, the Alaskan outback is a much harsher place then they bargained, particularly when they are still reeling from a traumatic event within their ranks and when they conflict with the locals. In Arcadia, the setting is upstate New York and the commune dwellers are latecomers, moving on to the farm (with a Victorian mansion on the premises) in the 1970s. Things go well for a while before they, some would say inevitably, begin to decline and the youngest character, Bit, has to decide whether or not to stay.
Turn on, tune in and read!