Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption. – Goodreads
This book has been on my TBR list for longer than I’d care to admit. In January, I decided it was time to try and get through some of my backlist reads, and this is where I chose to start. And I went into it with high hopes. It’s also a Pulitzer Prize winner, which further raised my expectations.
It’s really difficult to sum up what this book is about, because it’s kind of about everything. Each chapter is like its own story. The stories all overlap with one another and have characters in common with each other – and they all have a connection to either Bernie the record exec or his secretary Sasha. The chapters are interwoven, but they’re not in any kind of linear pattern. It’s difficult to keep track, particularly since the stories jump around between different characters as well as different time periods.
This means that you have to read with close attention (maybe even make a list) and whatever you do, don’t put the book down and try to come back to it later. Which is what I did, and man, did it complicate things!
Despite my difficulty keeping track of some of the characters, I have to admit that this book showcases some incredibly poignant writing. It’s easy to see why it received such a prestigious award, and why it stands out. There really aren’t any other books I can think of that bear any similarity to this book – either in terms of scope or structure.
It is perhaps because of this poignancy that I found myself needing to put the book down. The stories reveal the inner lives of characters dealing with a whole range of situations and events, and many of them aren’t particularly happy. It’s difficult to read at times, and will evoke an emotional response that can be a bit overwhelming, but also makes the book feel authentic. It shows the split between the persona each character projects to the people in their lives, and the hidden parts of themselves they don’t let anyone see. It can be hard to look at the brutal truth, and even harder to witness one brutal truth after another.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys complex characters, fantastic writing and who isn’t turned off by some abrasive and difficult personalities.
Author: Jennifer Egan
Published By: Anchor Books
Released: September 2011 (first published 2010)
Genre: Fiction, Character-Driven, Experimental
Date Read: January 8-March 17, 2015