A Visit from the Goon Squad

By Jennifer Egan,

Book cover of A Visit from the Goon Squad

Book description


Jennifer Egan's spellbinding novel circles the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other's…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked A Visit from the Goon Squad as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

A novel about the music industry might seem a strange choice for me. Though I love music, I've never played an instrument (except air guitar), and I find stories of rock stars' misbehavior tedious at best. But a friend urged me to read this book, and I'm glad I listened.

Yes, it's about the music industry, with a varied cast of characters (artists, producers, and more). But it's also about issues I connected with instantly: pursuing one's dreams, finding one's voice, making one's way in life, work, and love.

Creative language use matters to me, and Egan's prose knocked me…

When Jennifer Egan published “Found Objects” “Safari,” and “Ask Me If I Care” in The New Yorker I knew she was onto something, but I wasn’t prepared for the cumulative effect of A Visit from the Good Squad, which bounces between past and present (and, occasionally, into the future).

One character asks, “Time’s a goon, right?” Time is, though I hadn’t considered how until surrendering to Egan’s vision, which spans from NYC to Africa to PowerPoint. Whether this is a collection of linked stories or novel or some other hybrid form is irrelevant; the book is pure sorcery.

It was…

Jennifer Egan’s 2011 novel (and its 2022 sibling novel, The Candy House) take readers back and forth through the recent past and near future as we drop in on the lives of characters at different turning points in their lives. Each chapter takes readers in a new direction that deepens, complicates, or thoroughly upends our sense of characters. It makes for breathtaking reading.

Egan's point-of-view and temporal experiments worked very well. Even the Powerpoint presentation-as-story/chapter. I loved getting different perspectives on the same characters at various times in their lives, and thus became emotionally attached and curious about what happened to them. 

Some consider this a novel, but I enjoyed each “chapter” as a self-contained short story. Several pieces focused on aging punker Bennie Salazar and/or his employee, Sasha. In the non-Bennie chapters I wondered about Bennie, and Sasha. Despite the time leaping, the plot had a nice circular arc in the end that was quite satisfying, tying the whole thing together.


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