I was first introduced to "A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan in a book review in Entertainment Weekly, my pop culture bible. Soon after, my mother read the book and raved about it (and a rave review from a woman who reads 2-3 books a week is nothing to sneeze at). So on my last trip to the Brookline Booksmith (which for the record, is the best independent book store in Boston), I purchased my own copy.
"A Visit from the Good Squad" demonstrates how the passage of time can improve or destroy an individual's personal life and self-worth. The book received it's title from a vignette in the book where one of the characters sighs, "time is a goon" as he thinks about his youth and the disarray of his life now. The book bounces back and forth through time, laser focusing on particular turning points in the character's lives where they soared to greatness or plummeted to despair.
This book is not plot driven, but rather, people driven. Each chapter focuses on a major life event for a specific character. For example, a trip to Africa, a first date gone wrong, a fresh fish gifted to you by a friend, a party with a disastrous finale or a drowning in the river. As the reader, you relate to the honest and often self deprecating emotions the characters feel in these tender, raw moments. You think about the moments in your own life that are tattooed on your brain and whether you knew it or not, shaped the way you moved through the world going forward.
"A Visit from the Goon Squad" is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. This comes as no surprise given Egan's ability to stir up powerful feelings even in benign situations.
Bravo, Jennifer Egan, on this brilliant piece of work. Thank you for letting me visit with your squad.