A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Review by Kassel Coover
A Visit from the Goon Squad begins by introducing us to Sasha, an intriguing character, in the first chapter, who is a kleptomaniac. Then in Chapter 2, we are introduced to Bennie, who is Sasha’s boss at a record company. As you wend your way through the story, you discover that each chapter is a story loosely connected to the person before it. By the time you reach the last chapter, you’ve come full circle.
Goon Squad is well written. Egan has done a masterful job at weaving together the lives of different characters from different points of view at different time periods in their lives. The PowerPoint chapter likely put Egan in the winner’s circle for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. It’s an innovative telling of an entire story in PowerPoint.
The most troublesome thing about Goon Squad is that some of the passages go beyond the average reader’s head. Chapter 9, a reflection on a celebrity interview gone awry, has footnotes about quantum physics and protons. There’s a continual sense of hopelessness running throughout the book: people get old, people die, people are miserable, and everybody in the book does, or has done, drugs at some point in their lives. Goon Squadoffers a sad depiction of life with few glimmers of hope. A few chapters are boring.
A Visit from the Goon Squad has an innovative chapter, instances of good writing, and masterful weaving of tales and timelines.
This review was originally written for Novel Destinations, a TPL summer reading program for adults.
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This book could be used in several categories of our 50th anniversary book challenge, including “I don’t know what it’s called, but the cover is blue!”