A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

I saw a LOT of this book when it first came out, with all these wonderful glowing reviews, and so of course I ignored it because I am nothing if not contrary in the face of hype. I figured I’d let the excitement die down before checking this one out, but then it won the flipping PULITZER and I was like, “I should probably read this now while I still have a chance of getting from the library” and immediately put it on hold. I got it quickly, but then I let it languish for my six-week lending period and found myself preparing to power through it last week so I could finish by the time it was due back.

In fact, I didn’t so much “power through it” as “not stop reading it because it’s so darn good.” I can see why it won the Pulitzer; I am going to have to buy my own copy and read it like sixteen more times before I can even pretend to understand everything Egan’s got going on in here. But I so want to.

Very generally, what you’ve got here is a set of short stories about a set of characters who interact with each other in various configurations over a long period of time.

But each story has its own narrator and voice, with first person chapters and third person chapters and a second-person chapter and a chapter written as a magazine article and a chapter written as a PowerPoint…. And the stories jump around in time and space and Egan does a LOT of reader-trusting by not just giving you the time and place but expecting you to figure it out based on your prior knowledge and also expecting you to remember details from those previous chapters that do interesting things in subsequent chapters. And there are so many recurring phrases and themes and it all fits together just so well. Structurally, this book was fan-freaking-tastic.

I did have some problems with a couple of the chapters for being a little long and boring for being so short, or for being overly odd, and I really disliked the conceit of the last chapter though I appreciated the sentiment behind it. But overall I think that Egan has done a beautiful thing, and if you can stand the continual confusion, I think you will like this book. I could say many more things about this book, but so much of what I loved about it was watching everything unfold and I don’t want to take that away from you!

Recommendation: For people who like experimental-type things, confusing things, and very intricate things.

Rating: 9.5/10
(A to Z Challenge)

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One thought on “A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

  1. Cari says:

    Oh boy! This is our Ladies' Book Group book for September! How exciting that you could not put it down. Pulitzer books sometimes scare me.

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