Review: "A Visit from the Goon Squad," by Jennifer Egan
Jumped into this book because it won the Pulitzer a few years ago. The structure of this book is somewhat different, but not wholly unusual. Several characters make up the story and you jump/follow them at different times of their lives. I am sure that more learned critics than I have de-constructed this book ad infinitum so that's not my purpose here. Because I read in a disjointed fashion (let's call me an ADD book reader - I have a tendency to pick up a book, read a number of pages and then put it down and come back to it later...sometimes much later...) that technique got a bit in the way with Goon Squad. It's jumpy nature and my jumpy nature collided. But enough about me and the structure.
This book was fabulous and both entertained and challenged me. The entertainment was typical, interesting characters, intriguing stories within stories, lives playing out, all of them tinged with the drama and sadness that common life metes out to us all. But it also made me think and that doesn't always/often happen, especially with fiction. Despite the uncommon nature of the lives of the character, I saw myself not as one of them, but among them. As I have always believed that "loss" is the one, singular item we are all guaranteed, this book communicates that without being preachy or didactic. In a fashion it declares, "Here we all are, trying to make our way, and we all take damage points, sometimes more than we can handle." Yet it also says, "There's
redemption, there's goodness, but not without hurt." There's also a piece that struck me hard. It's another fact of life that we all know, but we don't really hold close because it's just a bit too disconcerting. If we are "lucky" and I mean that very facetiously, to live into middle and older ages, we all, every single damn one of us, become "marginalized". It's the truth and reality. It doesn't matter who you are and how important you were. Think of our living presidents here in the U.S. I'm not saying that they all aren't doing interesting, and perhaps positive, work. And, of course, their lives are vital - to themselves and those around them. But I don't care about Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton or a host of other people (read Kirk Douglas, or ex Supreme Court
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, or...pick your own.) When thy die, I'll find it interesting, but...that's it interesting. Let me be clear here. It's not that
I'm uncaring. It's just that my stories, my experiences, my memories, they're
all mine. And over time, they are really of no import to anyone, except me.
Goon Squad reminded me of that. This is an inventive, creative, rewarding,
interesting and demanding book and I'm recommending it, with the full warning
that not all people will find it so.