A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that was artistic, contemplative and beautifully written. There was no clear protagonist, which broke a few story rules, but the small stories within the story followed the same characters. It reminded me a lot of Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout, because both Olive Kitteridge and A Visit from the Goon Squad are broken into what seems to be separate narratives that weave around the same characters. I love this sort of creative novel.
There are many things I liked about this book, but here are the three things I liked most about it:
1. The points of view. Each chapter was written from another character’s point of view, and each one was distinctly original. It’s not easy to write from multiple points of view, because many times characters end up sounding a whole lot like one another. But Egan’s did not. I loved this distinction.
2. The verbs. Throughout the book, Egan chose unusual verbs to describe things. I found myself jotting down them down in my reading notebook, because they were so much better than the typical ones and showed a much clearer view of what was happening. Her verbs painted pictures of the action.
3. The similes and metaphors. Egan’s title was a metaphor, repeated by a couple of the characters: Time is a goon. The Goon Squad is a group of people who are passing through time, becoming musicians and parents and failures and all the things that time permits. The title of the book was a large metaphor, but there were also small metaphors and similes along the way. Take this simile, for example:
“‘Ow,’ Lou says. ‘Your quill is stabbing me.’ It’s a black-and-white porcupine quill—she found it in the hills and uses it to pin up her long hair. Her father slides it out, and the golden, tangled mass of Charlie’s hair collapses onto her shoulders like a shattered window.”
That’s a great image of Charlie’s hair.
Egan also experimented with some really interesting forms of prose. One chapter is written like a skewed news article. Another chapter is written in Power Point. Reading A Visit From the Goon Squad was like taking a walk, inside a character’s head, through time. Which, I suppose, is appropriate.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this book recommendation. Be sure to visit my recommendation page if you’re interested in seeing some of my best book recommendations. And, if you’re looking for some new books to read, stop by my starter library, where you can get a handful of my books for free.
*The books mentioned above have affiliate links attached to them, which means I’ll get a small kick-back if you click on them and purchase. But I only recommend books I enjoy reading myself. Actually, I don’t even talk about books I didn’t enjoy. I’d rather forget I ever wasted time reading them.