Because I don’t think I can improve on the review I wrote for this book on my library’s blog, I have made a few minor changes (mainly removing links to our catalog and “readers advisory” jargon) and reposted it here.
I do not often finish a novel and feel the urge to turn back to page one and re-read it immediately. If my stack of library books wasn’t so tall when I read the last page of A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, I certainly would have done so. Experimental fiction that is immersive and moving is a rarity, and this gem was a pleasure to read.
A Visit from the Goon Squad is both a short story collection and a novel. Each of the vignettes could stand alone as a story, but they are all connected by at least one character and form a cohesive novel when read in order. As the cover art suggests, many of the characters are involved in the music industry, but this ends up serving as a setting rather than the central theme of the book. As one character notes, “time is a goon,” and the overarching theme of these stories is that everyone is at the mercy of the passage of time. We visit many of the characters at different points in their lives and see the vast difference time makes. One of my favorite stories focuses on a former public relations executive who serves as a consultant for a genocidal dictator to support her daughter after a disastrous party ruins her reputation.
Egan wrote one of the chapters entirely in the form of PowerPoint slides. This intrigued me when I picked up the book, but I was worried that this format was a gimmick. It turned out to be easy to follow, and the format served the story rather than the story being told to fit the format.
This is one of my favorite books of the year. Fans of Nicole Krauss and Aimee Bender will love A Visit from the Goon Squad.