I was desperate for a book last week and in a time crunch at the library. I actually clicked on one of those handy links the librarians made and browsed through the National Book Award winners. That list is what narrowed my focus down on In America by Susan Sontag. When the little blurb mentioned the word "commune" I was racing to get my library card to the check out desk before lights out (literally, they start turning out the lights on you!).
I've always been fascinated by communes and the people who choose to live communally. It completely amazes me that although communes always fail, groups of people are constantly setting out to create their own little utopia. It's what I think of when I hear the Rocky Votolato lyric, "there's a holy grail of a simple life led somewhere." Personally, I love the idyllic nature of communes although I think I'm far too independent to happily live in one.
Oh, but I was telling you about In America...
To boil it down, Maryna is a very successful Polish actress in search of the "simple life." At first she's complacent to nestle up in a small mountain village on a seasonal basis. However, her fame popularizes the village and it ceases to be a charming natural locale. Still craving a new life, Maryna and friends travel from Poland to Southern California to live simply on a winery. Like all communal experiments, it doesn't last long. The financial failure of the endeavor drives Maryna to the America stage where she is elevated to megastar status.
Perhaps it was my eagerness to get to the commune that made reading Chapter 0 such a chore. I did a lot of eye rolling and mouthed a few "What are you talking about?"-s. Luckily, once you hit the actual story the characters begin to show hints of their future worthiness. Without a doubt my favorite section of the plot took place on the commune. Sontag could have rattled on for pages about that and I would have gladly read on. In fact, if I had my wish, I would replace the chapter of Maryna's long long long stream of conscious hysterics and just talk more about the change in relationships, identity, and needs brought on by the living experiment. I would have even liked to know more about their menu. But really, I've never been one for histrionic female leads in the first place.
Recommendation: It won the National Book Award for Fiction so you have to at least give it a shot starting at Chapter 1.