Joseph's Reviews > A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
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's review
Sep 14, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction
Read from September 11 to 14, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** This seems like a book I should have fallen in love with. It's well-constructed and intelligently plotted. I tend to be a fan of books like this, filled with interlocking stories, connected in obvious (recurrent characters in a shared universe) and not-so-obvious ways (themes, ideas, and even words seem to echo throughout the book). Egan has assembled an interesting cast of characters, and seems to have a gift for writing about and from the perspective of children especially.

But instead of "wow", I find myself shrugging just a little bit. This might be a book that benefits from a second read, but right off the bat, it almost seems too constructed. Characters and moments seem to jump out of several of the chapters as if to say "you'll be seeing me again later." Also, by connecting the disparate elements of her story so intricately, it's hard to avoid a faint whiff of contrivance. It's almost too cute that Bennie's new assistant's boyfriend is the son of the Samburu warrior his mentor met while on safari in Africa, for example.

Similarly, I couldn't quite buy into Egan's conception of the future, with its too-looming shadow of environmental apocalypse and its idea that pop culture will be basically just like it is today, only turned up to eleven. The idea of children becoming the dominant demographic for marketers seems patently ridiculous, and the suggestion that Powerpoint slides will replace diaries and blogs is downright goofy (although the Powerpoint chapter was surprisingly moving).

But as I usually do, I'm being excessively critical here. A Visit from the Goon Squad was a quick, compelling read. I'm not sure I would have given it the Pulitzer, but it wouldn't surprise me to see this sneak onto my top ten list for the year.

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