WE RECOMMEND: A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Recommending a book that in a single year has won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and is being made into an HBO mini-series may not be particularly original. But when the book is this good, it’s easy to jump on the accolades bandwagon.
Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad resembles a collection of linked short stories more so than a novel, though that is how some critics have characterized it. The common thread among the stories is music producer Bennie Salazar—while each chapter concerns a different central character, they all have some sort of connection to Salazar. The titular “goon” is time. The stories take place anywhere from 1973 to 2020, and each of the characters suffers drastically from the ageing process. Rarely is growing old as socially and economically damning as in the entertainment business, where many of the characters begin their careers. Despite the vastly varying backgrounds of the central characters, Egan succeeds in creating entirely new voices for each of them. If you’re having a difficult time keeping track of the characters or the chronology of the book, no worries—the blog Ready When You Are, C.B. has a number of charts, pictures and graphs to help you get things straightened out.
A Visit From the Goon Squad is at once sweet, sad, funny, and poignant. This is a book that will keep you thinking about it long after you’ve put it down.
Elizabeth Kelly, Instruction and Special Collections Librarian