What’s it about?
In A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan explores music, technology, and the passage of time. There is no one story in this book. Instead, the reader jumps back and forth over four decades, weaving in and out of the interconnected lives of dozens of strangers, friends, acquaintances, lovers, business partners, and families. The egomaniac punk-rocker-turned-record-executive Bennie and the enigmatic artist/kleptomaniac-with-big-dreams Sasha serve as the main anchors for the book, and every story reinforces the painful yet beautiful truth that time marches on whether or not you’re making the most of it.
Why did I like it?
With each chapter, you dive into the life of a new character. This can be disorienting at first, but that’s part of the book’s charm. You get a deep sense of the characters’ diverse personalities, goals, and fears, making them all the more human. You meet them at pivotal moments in their lives as they struggle to make major personal, educational, and business choices that they hope will bring them happiness and stave off the “goon” of time, so every story cuts straight to the heart and soul of its main character. The villain in one story suddenly becomes the hero of the next. Each chapter not only introduces you to new people, places, and times, but also to new writing styles. Egan chooses different narrative voices and perspectives in almost every chapter, matching the various personalities of her subjects. You get the traditional omniscient narrator voice in some chapters, first-person in others, and the more elusive second-person (you) even shows up. One chapter is written as a tabloid article, and another is written as a PowerPoint presentation. With each shift, you are kept on your toes, and invited to adapt your expectations in order to understand the truth and power of each story.
Why should you read it?
I’ve read many books in which the author jumps back and forward through time and into the minds of several characters. However, none have played so freely with writing style as Egan has done with A Visit from the Goon Squad. If you’re interested in discovering the impact your chosen writing style can have on your storytelling, this novel serves as a terrific crash course. If you’ve ever been a teenager, or had big hopes or dreams (whether they turned out or not), this book will resonate with you. If you’re a fan of music, fashion, or art, this book will give you a glimpse into the both glamorous and inglorious lives of the artists and business people who create for a living.
What do you think?
Have you read this book? Leave me a comment below to tell me what you thought about it.