A Visit from the Goon Squad
By Jennifer Egan
Completed June 6, 2011
A Visit from the Goon Squad has been nominated for almost every major award, including winning the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. What makes this book by Jennifer Egan so great? While I am no literary critic, I do believe the allure of Goon Squad lies in its characters. For me, the characters tie the entire story together.Each characters’ experiences may have been different, but their lives were somehow intertwined. It made for a rich story that kept me turning the pages.
There are many characters in this story, but the focal point of the book are two: Bennie and Sasha. Bennie is a music producer whose early years were spent in the San Francisco punk scene. Sasha was Bennie’s assistant – a kleptomaniac who struggled with intense personal losses. Around them orbited secondary characters, including: Scotty, Bennie’s friend from high school who played the slide guitar; Teddy, Sasha’s uncle who travels to Naples to find Sasha but gets distracted by Naples’ art; Rob, Sasha’s college friend who drowned in the East River; and Rhea, another high school friend of Bennie’s who manages to escape the punk scene relatively unscathed. With each secondary character, you learn more about Bennie or Sasha, until the end when you meet Alex, the one character with ties to both. This circular fashion of storytelling reveals so much about the characters – adding layers of complexity to each one.
Admittedly, one of my favorite chapters is the “PowerPoint chapter” – crafted by Sasha’s daughter, Alison. I enjoyed how Egan presented Alison’s story through the slide deck. It was effective and creative, and stretches the imagination of the reader. I never knew that a great story could be told through PowerPoint, but in Egan’s competant hands, Alison’s story was full of emotion and love. PowerPoint has never been warmer.
Once you’ve settled in to Egan’s writing style, A Visit from the Goon Squad takes off like a roller coaster, bouncing you through twists and turns that you don’t see coming. This book won’t be for everybody, but I think readers who enjoy character-driven fiction will find The Goon Squad to be an enjoyable and insightful read. ( )