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Goon Squad #2

The Candy House

Win a free print copy of this book!

25 days and 10:07:03

25 copies available
U.S. only
Rate this book
From one of the most dazzling and iconic writers of our time and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, an electrifying, deeply moving novel about the quest for authenticity, privacy, and meaning in a world where our memories are no longer our own—featuring characters from A Visit from the Goon Squad.

It’s 2010. Staggeringly successful and brilliant tech entrepreneur Bix Bouton is desperate for a new idea. He’s forty, with four kids, and restless when he stumbles into a conversation with mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or “externalizing” memory. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, Own Your Unconscious—that allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others—has seduced multitudes. But not everyone.

In spellbinding linked narratives, Egan spins out the consequences of Own Your Unconscious through the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades. Egan introduces these characters in an astonishing array of styles—from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter, and a chapter of tweets. In the world of Egan’s spectacular imagination, there are “counters” who track and exploit desires and there are “eluders,” those who understand the price of taking a bite of the Candy House.

Intellectually dazzling and extraordinarily moving, The Candy House is a bold, brilliant imagining of a world that is moments away. With a focus on social media, gaming, and alternate worlds, you can almost experience moving among dimensions in a role-playing game.​ Egan delivers a fierce and exhilarating testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for real connection, love, family, privacy and redemption.

334 pages, Hardcover

First published April 5, 2022

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About the author

Jennifer Egan

42 books6,945 followers
Jennifer Egan’s 2017 novel, Manhattan Beach, has been awarded the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. Egan was born in Chicago and raised in San Francisco. She is also the author of The Invisible Circus, a novel which became a feature film starring Cameron Diaz in 2001, Look at Me, a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction in 2001, Emerald City and Other Stories, The Keep, and A Visit From the Goon Squad, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the LA Times Book Prize. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harpers, Granta, McSweeney’s and other magazines. She is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library. Also a journalist, she has written frequently in the New York Times Magazine. Her 2002 cover story on homeless children received the Carroll Kowal Journalism Award, and “The Bipolar Kid” received a 2009 NAMI Outstanding Media Award for Science and Health Reporting from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,112 reviews
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
376 reviews2,815 followers
August 15, 2022
The Candy House is very hard to describe. Every chapter is written in a completely different style with a different character and in a different time period. It feels as though a different person authored each chapter.

However, each of the chapters were very interesting. At first, there didn’t even seem to be a common theme amongst the chapters until about 40% of the way through. This book is about technology, how it feels so good yet has unintended consequences.

Rarely has fiction caused so much self-reflection. This book made me nostalgic for the era before the internet, when you could go to the beach and listen to the waves softly crash upon the shores instead of listening to someone screaming into a cell phone. Nowadays, people have 5,000 Facebook friends but no one to help them move or someone to call at 3 am. We are voyeurs in each other’s lives. And what lives? Are we to believe that life is all of the glossy pictures on Insta? Does anyone actually have clutter in their house or is that just mine? Is there anyone who is authentic anymore? When was the last time that we went a full day without our Smartphones? Do you remember when you used to look forward to a doctor’s appointment just so you could read the magazines in the waiting room? Are we seeking out adventure or are we spending our time surfing the Web?

2022 Reading Schedule
Jan Animal Farm
Feb Lord of the Flies
Mar The Da Vinci Code
Apr Of Mice and Men
May Memoirs of a Geisha
Jun Little Women
Jul The Lovely Bones
Aug Charlotte's Web
Sep Life of Pi
Oct Dracula
Nov Gone with the Wind
Dec The Secret Garden

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Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
September 25, 2022
This book reminds me of that early Black Mirror episode "The Entire History of You". The premise is an extension of that concept-- being able to access all of your memories, externalize them, and share those memories with others. In this case, however, we see people also uploading them to share online.

Why would anyone do this? I found it amusing in the Lana and Melora chapters when they thought "no one would be dumb enough to do this" in response to "letting the Internet go inside their computers and play their music". I actually find the premise of this book extremely believable. Even as little as twenty years ago, I think people would have been shocked to hear how 2022 sees people, on a mass scale, sharing intimate details of their lives all over the Internet with complete strangers. Imagine telling someone in the 1980s how we all post pictures and comments and wait around for strangers around the world to validate us with "likes".

No, I think we do have a compulsion to be, if not liked, then at least understood. I think far too many of us feel we'd feel better if only we could adequately explain ourselves. And too many of us, for all kinds of reasons, are attention-seekers at some point in our life. I could see future humans uploading their memories to the Internet and I could also see it being a crisis for mental health.

But this seems all negative so far, and the technology Egan imagines here is anything but. Sure, there are plenty of people with moral objections to Mandala, but the good it has done?
...tens of thousands of crimes solved; child pornography all but eradicated; Alzheimer's and dementia sharply reduced by reinfusions of saved healthy consciousness; dying languages preserved and revived; a legion of missing persons found; and a global rise in empathy that accompanied a sharp decline in purist orthodoxies...

It is this speculative/sci-fi aspect of The Candy House that fascinated me and kept me reading until the end.

The reason I am giving it three stars is because this book is maybe 20% speculative fiction about humanity being able to access their memories (and all the ways this tech shapes the world) and 80% character studies of LOTS of different people, many of whom I never became invested in.

The Candy House reads like many interconnected short stories, not unlike A Visit from the Goon Squad from what I remember, but I found them very mixed. Some of the characters I gelled with easily, like Lana and Melora, and Gregory, others I swear my eyes glazed over reading about them. Like Chris Salazar who runs a nonprofit called Mondrian, dedicated to reclaiming people's privacy.

And these are very detailed, slow-build character studies. Which is fine when the characters and their stories are of interest, but it is very difficult to sit through the daily minutiae of someone you don't care about. I found it odd how the author would sometimes detail every "itch on his balls" yet speak about huge life-changing concepts in the abstract, telling rather than showing that, for example, "Heroin is her great love, her life's work, and she has given up everything for it".

Even as I say chunks of the book bored me, I can recognise it as an amazing achievement. It is a very complex, thoughtful novel that left me with a ton of things to think about. It feels both futuristic and highly relevant to our times, as many of the downsides of the fictional technology of Mandala are issues at the centre of current debates about privacy, access to information, access to misinformation, public shaming, and authenticity in the age of performance culture.

I didn't love reading it as much as I'd hoped, but I think I will love thinking about it for a while.
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
771 reviews12.1k followers
March 22, 2022
Mind-Bending

"Never trust a candy house!"


What happens when you no longer own your thoughts and memories? Do you really want to know what someone was thinking during your most coveted memories? These questions are explored in The Candy House, a multi-layered, multi-modal, and complex novel about a network of shared consciousness and the dangers of losing authenticity.

“Not every story needs to be told.”

An anthropologist's work on predictive behavior leads to the development of Own Your Unconscious, a virtual platform where one can upload memories to relive their favorite experiences and to learn what others thought during certain moments in time. These experiences lead tojoy and misery, as well as a quest for authenticity.

This is an intricate and provocative novel that is difficult to describe. The format mirrors A Visit to the Goon Squad, except where the Goon Squad mirrors a concept album, The Candy House follows the format of electronic dance music.

The narrative thread is developed via character intersections from chapter to chapter. Some of these connective threads are thin and hard to identify, whereas others are bold and definitive. There are stories within stories, but other stories exist outside these stories. The narrative is not linear, as time moves in all directions and intersects in the past, present, and future.

Many of the characters are ones who appeared in A Visit From the Goon Squad, but it has been so long since I read that book that I only vaguely remember them. The characters featured in this book are academics, music business giants, spies, mathematicians, extroverts, counters, eluders, addicts, gamers, con artists, and those desperate to change the world or others who long for human connection. Bix, Lulu, Roxy, Molly, and Lincoln are the characters whose voices stayed with me.

I had to read slowly to savor each story and each voice. This book transported me to a higher plane of thinking. One chapter involved equations that went above my head, but I got the gist of what was trying to be conveyed.

This was a tense and intense reading experience. I didn’t love The Candy House as much as A Visit to the Goon Squad, but I appreciated this novel. I can’t stop thinking about it since I have finished, and it has inspired me to think differently about my memories and the information I share.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,069 reviews38.2k followers
December 13, 2022
After “a visit to Goon Squad” burned my entire grey cells, I was hesitated to start this book. But the idea about externalizing and downloading memory experience felt like a quick de javu reminded me of my favorite Black Mirror episode ( season 1: episode 3: “Entire History of You: it’s about special memory implant that records everything you’ve done in the past) and I was truly hooked up. I knew from the beginning my head would hurt and I could lose the last remains of my perfectly functioning grey cells ( that I got implemented after reading the previous book of the author)

At this book aspiring tech entrepreneur Bix Bouton finally presents his new technology under the name “Own your unconscious “ which helps the users access the memories they’re looking for and they can also use them in exchange the other people’s memories. But things get a little bit complicated during this sharing process by connecting various characters over several decades.

I have to say this was so complex, mind numbing but also inventive, creative. I advise you to read when your mind is clear enough to perceive the connections between characters. In my opinion understanding the connections between characters correctly was as hard as solving simultaneous equations with multiple unknowns. I must admit the author is genius! One of the best brain sport experiences I’ve ever had.

Overall: complicated, brilliant, dazzling! You shouldn’t dare to miss it!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Scribner for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest thoughts.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,402 reviews8,129 followers
May 20, 2022
Yeah I did not enjoy reading this book. I found the characters too difficult to keep track of and the writing over-intellectualized instead of emotionally resonant. While I think the theme of technology and how it influences our lives is interesting, I felt disconnected from these characters given the many jumps in perspectives which precluded me from investing more deeply in the book’s theme or its characters. Perhaps if I had really slowed down and spent a ton of time on every chapter, I would’ve made more links between the points of view and thus understood the novel more, however, I don’t necessarily think it’s always on the reader to do that heavy lifting. Onto the next!
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
April 13, 2022
first things first: you can totally read this if you haven't read A Visit from the Goon Squad; the book that birthed it. but you should read it, because it's great.

of course, i read A Visit from the Goon Squad over a decade ago, so i was a bit worried that my honeycombed memory of all of the things that made it great would affect my understanding or enjoyment of this companion book. i really should have been worried about my brain's ability to track this one, which is a LOT all on its own.

this book deserves, and rewards, a reader's full attention. it's not difficult to follow, but there are a lot of characters, and a name mentioned offhand in one chapter might get their very own POV chapter down the line, while others may never come up again.

unfortunately, circumstances and deadlines got between me and this book, and i had to put it down a few times to focus on other thing$, so each time i picked it back up, i had to do a little back-flipping scramble through the chapters to refresh my memory about who each of these characters were and who they were to each other.

i would like the world to stop, just for a day, so i can reread goon squad and this one without falling behind in everything else.

until then...

like goon squad, The Candy House is more a collection of interwoven stories than a novel (when i was, belatedly, trying to refresh my memory of goon squad after reading this, i went over to its wikipedia page, which learnt me that egan "considers the book to be neither a story collection nor a novel").

this one is structured much the same; a tonal novel fragmented into a whirlwind of POV shifts, time shifts, stylistic shifts; rebooting itself chapter by chapter as recurring characters glide in and out of the narrative, brushing up against each other in a complex web of relationships. it is triumphantly interlocking and i can't even imagine how much diagramming she put into this.



NB: that is not jennifer egan. her wall is probably even crazier.

it's a tardis of a novel—it's fewer than 350 ARC-pages, and yet it contains too many multitudes to even address in the space of a book review; it is—to borrow a sentence from the book, "a galaxy of human lives hurtling towards his curiosity."

the most basic-bitch summary is that it is about "authenticity in the age of social media," and although it loops back and forth through time, the snake in the garden of it all is Mandala, the brainchild of CEO bix bouton (remember him from goon squad? i don't, not really!), which offers people the opportunity to externalize and store their consciousness on a cube, preserving their memories so they can be revisited, re-experienced. these can then be uploaded and shared with an online collective, which anyone who has contributed their own thoughts and memories can then view.

that sounds diabolical to me, but i'm barely a whisper online. in egan's near-future world, people are quite comfortable sharing their innermost, and nearly everyone is plopping the contents of their brains out there for the world to see. of course, even if you don't opt in, you're still visible in other people’s memories, in a more invasive form of tagging.

naturally, there are resistors to the whole shebang; and a nonprofit called Mondrian shall lead them—the brainchild of chris salazar, bennie salazar’s son (remember him from goon squad? i do—but barely, and really only because of how excellent his name is), enabling "eluders" to opt out, hiring writers as "proxies" to stand in for an eluder—a whole cottage industry geared towards radical privacy.

book clubs will no doubt enjoy the 'would you or wouldn't you' discussions this book will generate, and it's certainly a complicated issue. on the plus side:

...tens of thousands of crimes solved; child pornography all but eradicated; Alzheimer's and dementia sharply reduced by reinfusions of saved healthy consciousness; dying languages preserved and revived; a legion of missing persons found; and a global rise in empathy that accompanied a sharp decline in purist orthodoxies—which, people now knew, having roamed the odd twisting corridors of one another's minds, had always been hypocritical.


on the downside: loss of privacy, mega-surveillance, shame, knowing what everyone really thinks/thought about you, the disorientation of seeing the most meaningful moments in your life through someone else's critical filter, and just too too MUCH information. about everything.

she does more than she ought to be able to do with this conceit, given how relatively short the book is—truly, every segment offers up some sort of rabbit-hole meditation to chew over—and i'm just going to briefly touch on a couple of the juciest-to-me parts of her imagined future.

1) the diminished power of language—this is not directly related to the whole mandala v mondrian opposition, and it isn't a huge part of the book, but it interests me as a heightening of the semantic bleaching already dehydrating language in everyday usage, and a pushback against cliché in creative writing.

It was Athena who first made them aware, in the workshop where Gregory and Dennis met, of word-casings and phrase-casings: gutted language she likened to proxies..."I want words that are still alive, that have a pulse. Hot words, people! Give me the bullet, not the casing—fire it right in my chest. I'll die gladly for some fresh language."

She meant their prose, not their conversation, but Gregory and his peers strained for fresh ways to say, in workshop, that a piece of writing was powerful ("coiled," "obsidian," "hegemonic") or flat ("Waxen," "kerneled," "Coffee grounds").


2) fiction's place in a world teeming with Entertainment, where strangers' lives and memories can be viewed like movies, lacking any shape or context.

"But knowing everything is too much like knowing nothing; without a story, it's all just information."

we need our shepherds.

3) the toll of all of this on human behavior. this is a big one, and of particular fascination to me. she takes a multi-angled approach to it, and if anyone's looking for a dissertation topic, you could go nuts on it: particularly through the characters of alfred, lincoln, and chris.

the first wink is alfred, who is desperate for authenticity, for [g]enuine human responses rather than the made-up crap we serve each other all day long. the phoniness of television revolted him in early childhood, and it just got worse.

...by age nine, Alfred's intolerance of fakery had jumped the life/art barrier and entered his everyday world. He'd looked behind the curtain and seen the ways people played themselves, or—more insidiously—versions of themselves they'd cribbed from TV: Harried Mom. Sheepish Dad. Stern Teacher. Encouraging Coach. Alfred would not—could not—tolerate these appropriations.


he wonders: "Why did people have to pretend to be what they already were?"

chris' job entails creating "algebraizations" of storytelling tropes (Hero Delivers Comeuppance to Perennial Jerk, Blurred Faces Lean Over Protagonist, Gradually Sharpening), and finds this distillation of experiential universalities into data leaching the richness from his own life and flattening the way he interprets his own experiences (Straight Arrow Hijacked by Lawbreaker, Is Unexpectedly Exhilarated).

lincoln is a "counter," a profession seemingly custom-made for the neurodivergent, using his numerical-compartmentalizing life-slant to develop analytics/metrics to predict, exploit, and monetize human behavior.

the relationship between actual human behavior and the systems designed to analyze these behaviors becomes all kinds of circular and insidious—algorithms and human behavior feeding off each other, reducing humans to traits and character types and expectations, presented as entertainment and regurgitated by performative behavior fulfilling these expectations.

infinite jest is one of my all-time favorite books, and thematically, there's a lot of overlap between her and david foster wallace: technology, entertainment, addiction, loneliness, projected self v inner life and self-image, truth/history/memory, spies, individuality, and how we can be connected to absolutely everybody and still feel absolutely alone, scrolling through our own staged social media feeds for evidence of our happiness.

it's a staggeringly strong book and a sharp poke in the eye of modern life and relationships. her prose is clean and bright, her characters are flawed and nuanced, and the book overall is resoundingly empathetic. my powers of articulation are not at their peak right now, but i blathered my best and now it's up to you to do better.



*************************************

NOW AVAILABLE!! still organizing my thoughts about this book—hopefully i will finish my review tomorrow? for now, apply these words from my DOPE CANDY HOUSE BAG to this space.



my revieewwwww so unknoooowable!

*************************************

review to come, but WOW WOW WOW—i forgot how good she was.

wow.

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yeesh, let's see if i remember enough about A Visit from the Goon Squad to appreciate this one properly!

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,504 reviews24.5k followers
March 6, 2022
This is the sequel to the talented Jennifer Egan's The Goon Squad, with many of the characters from that book making an appearance here. In this thought provoking novel set in the near future, going back and forth in time, Egan picks up on threads from our contemporary world with the increasingly worrying trend of people providing details of their lives on social media without any thoughts of what it might mean to give up their privacy. The title The Candy House is a reference to the Hansel and Gretel fairytale to highlight and underline the fact that nothing comes for free. This is a challenging, demanding and imaginative read that requires close concentration from the reader, there are what can feel like an overwhelming cast of multigenerational characters inhabiting stories in multiple formats which intersect and connect, each with their own distinct voices and perspectives. Bix Bouton is an inordinately successful tech entrepreneur with his Mandala tech company.

A restless Bix in his search for new ideas listens to ideas, thoughts and visions of others, coming up with Own Your Conscious which makes it possible for people to upload and share all their memories and thoughts, in return they can access the memories of others. This has proved to be wildly appealing to huge numbers of people, lured by the Candy House, but not everyone is enamoured or convinced by this, they are known as the eluders, their scepticism having them trying to live off the grid, many of whom use proxies, the Counters are employed to identify and track them down. Egan thoughtfully explores the fundamental question of what it is to human and the too high price and repercussions attached to giving up our privacy, in her multilayered and complex stories and study of lives through time.

Egan shows how humans have an overwhelming and innate need and determination to connect with each other in this enthralling novel. This is not a perfect read, not every story captured my interest, but I liked how each story is part of a much bigger picture that moves the narrative towards the conclusion. A book that draws on the earlier The Goon Squad, geared to making us think about where our world is moving, and which touches on issues of memory, meaning, family, love and privacy, which I think will be appreciated by fans of the author and many other readers. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.
Profile Image for Liz.
1,918 reviews2,355 followers
February 9, 2022
2.5 stars, rounded up
This book is a series of interconnected stories all designed to prove a point. It begins with Bix, the founder of Mandala, a successful tech company. Just as he’s panicking that he has no idea for his next big idea, he comes up with the idea of “Own Your Unconscious”, which allows people to literally share their memories. Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different character and the POVs and writing styles change with the character.
The book can be mind boggling. Not just the different characters, but the different ideas presented. The story jumps around in time and moves between different generations. We see the progress of the OYU program into everyday life. As with the best sci-fi, this book tackles some deep ideas. What does it mean to be an individual, to want to elude the capture of your memories and thoughts. It’s a slap in the face to our Facebook/instagram/Tik Tok lifestyle of sharing our lives. The Candy House is literally a reminder that nothing comes for free (the title is a play on Hansel and Gretel). The book’s narrative style is so focused on the message, it sacrifices character depth. The sheer number of characters made it impossible for me to come to care about any of them. Also, the quality of the various stories was uneven. I found myself skimming one or two of the chapters.
This is the second in The Goon Squad series. But it’s been so long since I read the first, it was a meaningless distinction for me as I couldn’t remember anything about that book. It can be read as a stand-alone although other reviewers have pointed out several characters are carryovers from the first book.
My thanks to Netgalley and Scribner for an advance copy of this book.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,445 reviews2,183 followers
March 29, 2022
While a A Visit from the Goon Squad dealt with music-centered youth cultures and how aging affects related art scenes and people, The Candy House shows a world in which the music industry itself has become a thing of the past, and in which the barrier between inner and outer worlds is collapsing: The digital age. All starts in 2010, when fourty-year-old tech entrepreneur Bix Bouton combines research that predicts and operationalizes human behavior with a new method to digitally externalize and store human consciousness. When we can digitally enter our own and other people's complete thoughts and experiences, what's the role of art, and what do human memory and human connection still mean? "(...) knowing everything is too much like knowing nothing; without a story, it's all just information." Egan is here to tell these stories.

In the novel, she frequently refers to Dungeons & Dragons, a role playing game - and this metaphor might not only be read in the context of the uploaded consciousness, but it's also a structural device for the text in which we as readers constantly switch characters (and isn't fiction reading and writing also a form of role playing, a form of "choose your own adventure", as Saša Stanišić illustrates in his autofictional Where You Come From?). Much like in "Goon Squad", we meet a vast cast of characters, the text jumps through time and space, and the chapters can be perceived as interconnected stories, partly with changing styles. Most of the "Goon Squad" characters re-appear, but the focus is on the next, the younger generation. Again, the plot is impossible to recount, as this is about intricate scenes, and after the mediocre Manhattan Beach, Egan once again shines with captivating atmospheric writing, strong evocation of places and characters and the creation of palpable moods. Oh, and in case you wonder wehether we get Power Point slides in the "Goon Squad" tradition: This time it's digital conversation that the publisher describes as tweets, but that look more like WhatsApp, DMs or some other chat to me.

"Never trust a candy house. It was only a matter of time before someone made them pay for what they thought they were getting for free." Granted, this lesson about social media is not exactly new or groundbreaking, but Egan writes it much better than people like Dave Eggers, precisely because she doesn't get lost in the technicalities, but ponders the movements of the human mind; she does not focus on what tries to dehumanize her characters, but what makes them human in the first place, which is exactly the topic of all art. She investigates what, sometimes magically, connects her characters, as fiction "lets us roam with absolute freedom through the human collective".

Granted, one might argue that the cast of the novel is way too big, that the topics constantly shift in and out of focus, and that the playful chapter crafted with DMs pushes the whole thing to the extreme (so.many.people, and so, so long), but that's also the charme of the text: It does not adhere to rules, it's all about free-roaming language, not about computer linguistics. Bix' enterprise might pack consciousnesses into cubes, but Egan's writing can only laugh about such restrictions. To drop strict regulations and rather try to go with the flow of human emotions and experiences, that's the narrative concept of "The Candy House".

Super fun to read, great characters, but requires some work and concentration. Let's see where Egan can go with this as far as literary prizes are concerned.
Profile Image for John Mauro.
Author 4 books285 followers
August 29, 2022
*sigh*

I really wanted to love The Candy House, Jennifer Egan's follow-up to her highly innovative, Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad. Both novels adopt the same structure of loosely connected narratives spanning several decades in time and across many disparate points of view. In A Visit from the Goon Squad, Egan overcame the intrinsic deficiencies of this approach to build a coherent theme around the nature of time. Despite the lack of narrative focus through much of the book, A Visit from the Goon Squad pulls everything together in its most creative (and polarizing) chapter, written in the format of a PowerPoint presentation. In my opinion, Egan pulls this off beautifully. The PowerPoint chapter was surprisingly heartfelt, actually leaving me in tears.

Unfortunately, Egan was unable to repeat this level of success with The Candy House, a loose sequel that features some of the side characters from A Visit from the Goon Squad. The fact that this is a sequel is of no importance. There is no need to read A Visit from the Goon Squad first. Egan could have written exactly the same book with characters that are fully independent from her previous work.

The Candy House starts off very strong with a chapter on Bix Bouton, a Mark Zuckerberg-type figure who has invented a new social media-type technology for storing and retrieving memories. Bix is a bit of a naive optimist concerning his technology. He is a great character, and just as I became fully invested in his story, Egan cedes the narrative voice to a large cast of side characters. While poor Bix is left hanging, the remaining chapters somehow feature the impact of Bix's technology.

Despite the common themes of the sociological impact of technology and the nature of memory, there is no overarching storyline here, nothing to pull these disparate stories together into a coherent whole. Instead of a PowerPoint chapter toward the end of the book, we have one chapter written in verse and another written as a series of email conversations. Neither of these chapters works nearly as effectively as the PowerPoint chapter from A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Many of the themes have been done better elsewhere. The development of artificial intelligence and the nature of memory has been presented much more compellingly in Liz Moore's The Unseen World, an absolutely beautiful, heartfelt novel that left a permanent mark on me.

Part of The Candy House features a group of young people playing Dungeons & Dragons and experimenting with the memory device. This exact plot has already been done by Mark Lawrence in his brilliant Impossible Times trilogy, beginning with the masterful One Word Kill. Whil Lawarence succeeds in building a coherent, heartfelt story, Egan only gives us a passing glimpse into this world.

Egan also stumbles when it comes to the technical details of Bix's technology. While Liz Moore and Mark Lawrence both shine in painting realistic pictures of artificial technology and memory storage technologies, Jennifer Egan resorts to hand-waving the technical details away. She presents some pseudo-math that, I think, is meant to be profound, but instead just doesn't make any sense. In one particularly embarrassing sentence, Egan describes the shape of the memory storage device as being both a square and a cube. In the same sentence. Please pick a dimensionality and stick with it.

All in all, I was left disappointed by Egan's latest novel. The innovative structure of A Visit from the Goon Squad has lost its shine here, leaving The Candy House as a pile of fragments rather than a coherent whole.
Profile Image for ♥ Sandi ❣	.
1,216 reviews
January 6, 2022
Thank you to Book Club Favorites at Simon & Schuster for the free copy for review. This book publishes April 5, 2022.

I quickly came to the conclusion that this author is not for me. I did not read A Visit from the Goon Squad by this same author, but think it may be beneficial to read that book first. I am told that Candy House has all the same characters in it, but that this book is pre-Goon Squad as far as time frame.

I found this book to be utterly confusing. It was written in first person and second person and third person and also epistolary form. There was a chapter just in tweets and another in epistolary or journal form. All so confusing.

Other than the multiple points of view written in varying forms, there were interconnecting stories, and multiple timelines. The book started out well, with one set of characters, then just dropped them and went on to a totally new set of characters and a new story. And this continued time after time.

I felt that there was a lack of displaying the prominent issues or plot of the story. It seems to go running around in circles trying to get the point across. And what again was the point? Predicting future technology with mind skills? Keeping your memories? Telekineticly knowing other peoples memories? I am sure the plot line is there... somewhere!

Good story premise, bad execution. This author is just absolutely not for me.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,850 reviews34.9k followers
May 3, 2022
Review later — I am out on a trail walking —
My expectations were low but I liked it better than I thought I would—-
I love the beginning - in fact the beginning was hilarious—
Doesn’t everybody know at least one person who breast fed their toddler until they were three years old… Old enough to ask her a cookie with their mother’s milk?

I also liked the way it ended….

To me it was the children who stood out in ‘The Candy House’ — bringing parents, neighbors, families, community-memories- music - past - present and future sacredness together!
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,286 reviews638 followers
June 29, 2022
What an ambitious novel! I read Egan’s 2010 Pulitzer-winning novel, “A Visit from the Goon Squad” over a decade ago and I adored it. In her newest novel, “The Candy House”, she revisits her Goon Squad characters. Although one doesn’t need to have read Goon Squad first, I think I would have enjoyed “The Candy House” more if I would have reread it, as my GR friend Lisa did.

The story begins with Bix Bouton from the Goon Squad. He’s a “Tech Demigod” and founded Mandala, a social media entity. In “Candy House” he creates a new gadget that allows the human mind to be copied called “Own Your Own Conscious”. He has a subscription only feature (the CollectiveConsciousness) in which if you upload your mind, you can access every member’s collective consciousness. “By uploading all or part of your externalized memory to an online collective, you gained proportionate access to the anonymous thoughts and memories of everyone in the world, living or dead, who had done the same.” For example, if you wanted to identify a person who you met in passing yet think that that person could be the great love of your life, you can run a face-match on the CollectiveConsciousness. Egan proposes it like facebook in which you can connect with old friends. Of course the law enforcement agencies want to utilize it for crime reasons.

Yet, Egan makes her novel a cautionary tale of providing too much of our personal data online. We live in an era of unprecedented access to personal data, including what people ate for lunch. Egan ponders, does this access actually make us better at understanding one another?

As with “Goon Squad”, Egan uses an innovative structure. In “Candy House”, each chapter picks up the point of view of a supporting character from a previous chapter, thereby seeing characters from differing lenses. And then structurally it changes in such a way, that I wished I would have read this instead of listening to the audio.

This ambitious story is told from 16 narrators, all amazing. Yet, her structure made listening, rather than reading, the story uneven. The beginning and end of the story follow a story trajectory. In the middle there is a chapter of tweets, a chapter of emails, and a strange LuLu the spy interlude.

This is a novel that should be read. Too many visuals are needed to totally enjoy the story.

Profile Image for Lisa.
1,380 reviews519 followers
January 31, 2022
[4.5] My head is spinning and I feel so many emotions after finishing this imaginative and stunning novel. Reading it is like opening nested gift boxes that go on and on - thrilling and confusing and scary. Because The Candy House continues with characters introduced in A Visit from the Goon Squad, I put it down halfway through and reread "A Visit from the Goon Squad" which I first read over a decade ago. Wow! It definitely enriched my experience - and I also have a deeper appreciation of the earlier novel. Again, Egan plays with form and asks the reader to jump between decades, characters and styles.

Egan combines a chilling warning - we will pay a terrible price for relinquishing our privacy - with a dose of hope. In the end perhaps fiction will redeem us. It is the best kind of reading journey - demanding, immersive and enlightening.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me an ARC.
Profile Image for Michael Burke.
118 reviews68 followers
April 4, 2022
Step right up and you can take one giant leap into the future right now by mastering the past. Not only your past, but the past and memories of everyone else invested in our community.

In "The Candy House" Jennifer Egan introduces technology to rock the world. "Own Your Unconscious" is tech giant Mandala's new program to revisit and share memories, granting access to the recorded thoughts and memories of anyone participating in this souped-up digital share. Circle back to the highlights of your life. Clear up any hazy recollections. Explore what others were really thinking during crucial life turning points. As Mandala points out, crimes are being solved, missing persons found, and the repercussions of both Alzheimer's and dementia are tempered. This is progress delivering a win-win for everyone.

This win does come with a cost. Gone are the carefree days when you only worried about online digital footprints. Whole organizations emerge to resist this threat to privacy. "Eluders" do whatever they can to remain off the grid. Paranoia is rampant in a world determined to monitor your every movement and thought.

Jennifer Egan populates this book with a sometimes dizzying montage of individuals, some reappearing from her previous novel "A Visit from the Goon Squad". It is a challenge to see who is guiding us through each chapter as the narrators switch. I confess I took notes early on to keep track of the players and their relations to others. Perhaps my memory could use an upgrade.

"The Candy House" is a brilliantly constructed voyage into a future of mixed blessings. Once again Jennifer Egan delivers a funny, engaging and thought provoking performance. I am grateful to Scribner Books, and NetGalley for providing the Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review. #CandyHouse #NetGalley

I am posting this on NetGalley and GoodReads October 26, 2021.
"The Candy House" will be published on April 5, 2022 and reviews will be posted on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BookBub, Twitter, Facebook, KOBO, and Waterstones on that date.

"Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things."
Marcus Tullius Cicero

"When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not."
Mark Twain
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,717 reviews1,153 followers
April 28, 2022
Published today 28-4-22

In frantic league, we flailed for ways to end the “sharing” that was dismantling our father’s business and our father. We contemplated a nationwide billboard campaign to remind people of that eternal law, Nothing is free! Only children expect otherwise, even as myths and fairy tales warn us: Rumpelstiltskin, King Midas, Hansel and Gretel. Never trust a candy house! It was only a matter of time before someone made them pay for what they thought they were getting for free. Why could nobody see this?


In Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle award winning 2011 novel, “A Visit from the Goon Squad”, one of the minor characters Bix, an early adopter of email, who is “big on predicting the future” suddenly says

The days of losing touch are almost gone ………… Everyone we’ve lost, we’ll find. Or they’ll find us ………..I picture it like Judgement Day ….We’ll rise up out of our bodies and find each other again in Spirit form. We’ll meet in that new place, all of us together, and first it’ll seem strange, and pretty soon it’ll seem strange that you could ever lose someone, or get lost


This novel, due for publication in 2022, is effectively a follow up to that book exploring the world of Bix's prophecy and moving from a focus on how the music industry is changing to one looking at the wider world of social media and connected devices (which in turn means that the book has a more science fiction feel at times). It retains the ideas around the ravages of time (the meaning of the Goon Squad) but with a greater focus here on memory, on privacy/sharing and on the way in which storytelling is needed to give meaning to information.

It has the same style with a series of chapters, written in different voices, persons, set at different times and sometimes straying into non-conventional forms, which are effectively designed to be read stand alone (many of the chapters of the previous novel had already been published individually) but which together form an interlinking novel – with minor characters in one story playing a more central role in another.

Here the situation is made more complex by the interaction between the two novels – with almost every major and many minor characters from “Goon Squad” reappearing here (for example Bix and Mindy may well not be characters you remember from the first novel but they are integral here not just to the novel but to the very speculative future world described by the novel).

Further much of the narrative being taken up by the next generation of the characters in the first novel – Bernie’s son Chris (who you may vaguely recall from trying his father’s gold flakes on the trip to the fading girl band) is also integral.

I would strongly recommend to read the two novels back to back for the full experience – albeit given a key theme of this novel is retrieving (or in some cases erasing) memories it would be an interesting experience to see how much this book standalone prompts memories of its predecessor.

Brief outline of each story (note many of the characters are from Goon Squad):

The Affinity Charm: Bix – now the hugely famous founder and owner of a mega social media firm Mandala (which drew on an anthropological book – “Patterns of Affinity” by Miranda Kline) is struggling with a sudden loss of an visionary ideas. Incognito he attends a small discussion group (after a Kline lecture) at the house of Ted Hollander where he meets a young graduate student Rebecca Amari and also hears ideas about externalizing animal perceptions which starts to spark his thinking.

Case Study: No One Got Hurt – is narrated by Rebecca Amari (who is researching authenticity) and is about Ted’s son Alfred who she takes as a subject. Alfred is the youngest son (the oldest and very conventional Miles, the overlooked middle son Ames who works in military special ops) who from an early age mounts a deliberately provocative campaign against artifice/inauthenticity which goes through stages from wearing a paper bag on his head to prolonged public screaming.

A Journey: A Stranger Comes to Town – is narrated alternately by Miles (who becomes addicted to opioids and throws his marriage and conventional life away) and Drew (married of course to Sasha – who is Miles cousin). By now Mandala have developed their “Own Your Unconscious” App and the idea of the Collective Consciousness – where by uploading your memory you get some access to those of others. Miles goes to stay with Sasha (now a conceptual desert-installation artist) and Drew as part of his rehab and the two feud.

Rhyme Scheme: the story is told by Lincoln (Sasha and Drew’s son) – something of (what we would currently) call a neuro-diverse type (but in the story Lincoln sees the world as counters – of which he is one - and typicals – and is clear the counters now run the world) who works at Mandala - his job being quantification, statistical analysis, measurement etc. At this time there is a strong movement of eluders who actively seek to leave social media often by use of proxies (accounts run by bots on their behalf) – lead by a firm Mondrian. One of Lincoln’s roles is to find ways to hunt out proxies who otherwise ruin much of the data analysis Mandala does. Lincoln is preoccupied with a fellow worker Madeline against a background of an investigation into an eluder mole at Mandala.

The Mystery of our Mother – is told by Melora, the youngest of two daughters from Lou Kline’s third marriage to Mindy (which broke up after his seduction of Jocelyn) and partly tells of how Melora took over his business (as well as that of Bernie Salazar) in her attempt to refashion the music industry for the world of sharing and partly about how she patented and sold her mother’s ideas (based around work she had done on predicting human interactions in an insular community) to social media firms such as Mandala (who could use it if people were voluntarily prepared to give them huge amounts of personal data – something Melora realises the use of streaming services is the first stage of).

What the Forest Remembers – is told by Charlene (from Lou’s second marriage) and is her exploring her father’s uploaded memories of a trip he took in the 1960s where he discovered his first band. This was the weakest chapter for me.

Bright Day – is about Roxy (from Lou’s first marriage) and a Dungeon and Dragon’s group she joins at her rehab centre – run by Chris (Bennie Salazar’s son) who now runs a firm called Mondrian and is actively against much of the work of Mandala. D&D – role playing and the possibility to invent a persona and a character is something of a recurring theme in the novel which fits its overall themes. Roxy tries uploading and searching her memories and those of her father. The story also features a childhood friend of Chris – Molly – who was also friends with him with Dolly’s daughter Lulu.

The Protagonist – is Chris’s story and tells of his work for a film tech company finding ways to “algebraize” films and TV shows for stock elements. While inadvertently dragged into what seems to be a bomb attack on his employer he also becomes disillusioned with his work and that of his employer. He also visits his grandmother – Bennie’s mother – who is obsessed with the paintings of Mondrian.

The Perimeter: After – is told by Molly when she is thirteen – Molly is the daughter of Noreen (Stephanie and Bennie’s neighbour when they first move to a posh district) and tells of the social structure in the area and her interactions with Lulu and Chris

Lulu the Spy – this is a distinctively told story of when Lulu (now married to an NSA operative) acts as a Citizen Spy in a high danger adventure – the chapter being told in the aphoristic second person style of her espionage training and also outlining the huge degree of body implants which are part of her mission.

The Perimeter – is told by one of Molly’s siblings and tells of Noreen’s obsession with Jules (when he moves in with his sister Stephanie) and with the boundary between their houses. To some extent this is story is a retelling of large parts of “A to B” from “Goon Squad” from Noreen’s viewpoint.

See Below – this is the longest story (perhaps a little too long), a series of emails and messages between a rather bewildering number of familiar characters including (but not limited to) Lulu, Lulu’s NSA husband, Dolly, Kitty Jackson, Jules, Ames Hollander (who now runs a business cleaning up military implants), Bosco, Arc, Bennie, Alex, Stephanie, Chris, a famous film star and a series of PR agents and PAs. This story is a lot about nostalgia, about revisiting past connections and memories – and by bringing in what feels like the full cast of “Goon Squad” and revisiting some of its great set pieces (Dolly, Kitty and Lou’s trip to X, the legendary Scotty concert organised by Alex, Benny and Lulu) has a very obvious meta-component.

So here we are, conniving once again to bump Scotty’s reputation, along with Bosco’s and—let’s be honest—my own and that of everyone else over 60 striving for cultural relevance in a world that seems to happen in a nonexistent “place” that we can’t even find unless our kids (or grandkids!) show it to us. The only route to relevance at our age is through tongue-in cheek nostalgia, but that is not—let me be very clear— our ultimate ambition. Tongue-in-cheek nostalgia is merely the portal, the candy house, if you will, through which we hope to lure in a new generation and bewitch them.


I would day though that I think this chapter was both less original and less cleverly meta than the famous PowerPoint chapter in Goon Squad.

Eureka Gold – told by Bix’s son Gregory after the death of Bix when to everyone’s surprise it emerges Bix had met up with Miranda Kline and Chris Salazar and is donating much of his legacy to Chris’s not-for-profit Mondrian. Gregory himself is a wannabe writer – and has a sudden realisation that fiction is the real, non-mechanical, way to explore other people’s (and a collective) consciousness.

Middle Son (Area of Detail) is a slightly strange ending – telling of Ames childhood, secret ops service and then his post military business – told partly from his own memories, partly from those he has found in the collective. It contains a line which sums up much of the book

Even so, there are gaps: holes left by eluding separatists bent upon upon hoarding their memories and keeping their secrets. Only Gregory Bouton’s machine—this one, fiction—lets us roam with absolute freedom through the human collective.


Overall thoroughly recommended for “Visit from the Goon Squad” fans and for those who have not read that book – a great excuse to visit a 21St Century classic and prize winning novel and its equally enjoyable, visionary and cleverly crafted follow up.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,730 reviews4,080 followers
March 6, 2022
(4.5) An incredibly intelligent, unpredictable novel that took my breath away not only with the scope of its storytelling (and the sheer complexity of the connections between its characters) but also the depth of its humanity. The Candy House partly revolves around the invention of the Mandala cube, a device that allows a person’s consciousness to be recorded and shared, but assuming this makes it a plot-driven sci-fi novel would be a mistake; while it ranges all over the map in terms of genre and form, its one consistency is that it is resolutely character-centric. This is a book that wants us to look closely at people’s lives, and if there is a technology it’s concerned with, it’s its own medium, fiction – fiction as an empathy machine. I found it difficult to put down: once Egan starts writing about a person, you want to stay with them; once a chapter finishes, you think, ‘just one more’... The Candy House’s sprawling web of stories is akin to other similarly wide-ranging and densely interconnected works: City on Fire, The Overstory, I Still Dream. (Also, a confession: while I have read A Visit from the Goon Squad, it was 11 years ago and I remember little about it; the links between the two books barely registered with me, and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.)

I received an advance review copy of The Candy House from the publisher through Edelweiss.

TinyLetter | Linktree
Profile Image for Olive Fellows (abookolive).
546 reviews4,467 followers
Read
April 25, 2022
Nearly two decades into the era of social media, most of us realize it’s not a pure reflection of reality. We warn impressionable teenagers not to compare their true selves to cultivated snapshots of their idols’ lives and authenticity is spoken about like a summit we can only strive to reach. If social media profiles are the portraits we paint of ourselves, then the craquelure is becoming visible. We’re starting to get a sweet tooth for things that look and feel more real.

In her thought-provoking new novel, “The Candy House,” a “sister novel” of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” author Jennifer Egan ponders the possibilities of the post-social media age while expanding the “Goon Squad” universe and bringing its cultural conversation up to date.

Click here to read the rest of my review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette!
Profile Image for Dennis.
723 reviews1,385 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
April 19, 2022
DNFing at 25% as I realized I may not be intelligent enough to enjoy this book. I think I'll stick with trashy thrillers.
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,017 reviews48.2k followers
March 29, 2022
Even in an era of boundless hype, Jennifer Egan’s “The Candy House” has a legitimate claim on the title of Most Anticipated Book of the Year.

This is, after all, a sequel to “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” Egan’s astonishing demonstration of literary bravado that swung through 2010, grabbing a Pulitzer Prize, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award. The Washington Post named “Goon Squad” one of the best books of 2010, and, later, other publications called it one of the greatest novels of the decade.

Egan’s creativity was so magnificent that commentators focused not on the storyline of “Goon Squad” but its multifarious forms, her confident array of perspectives — first, second and third — ranging through time and around the world, crescendoing with a 70-page PowerPoint presentation! It was a novel of such peacocking swagger that only its knockout triumph saved it from looking obnoxious.

Well, here we are more than a decade later, and even if you were a fan — as I was — the intervening years have likely beaten those characters from your memory. As someone in that earlier novel observed, “Time’s a goon,” and unfortunately, Egan is in no mood to help out, which means you’ll likely be as baffled as dazzled by “The Candy House.”

The music that ran through “Goon Squad” and gave the novel its melody is far harder to hear in these new chapters. Also, 12 years later, readers are less likely to be awed by literary experimentation. A chapter of tweets earns no ♥ now. A second-person narrator? You shouldn’t have.

But if “The Candy House” is. . . .

To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/books/...
Profile Image for Anthony Marra.
Author 22 books2,192 followers
April 20, 2022
A Visit from the Goon Squad is one of my all time favorite collections of linked stories and The Candy House is beautiful follow up. I highly recommend reading Good Squad first, as the two books share a similar cast of characters. One of the pleasures of reading the two back to back is seeing their characters change not only over the course of the books, but between them.
Profile Image for Blaine.
712 reviews573 followers
October 31, 2022
Nothing is free! Only children expect otherwise, even as myths and fairy tales warn us: Rumpelstiltskin, King Midas, Hansel and Gretel. Never trust a candy house! It was only a matter of time before someone made them pay for what they thought they were getting for free. Why could nobody see this?

But knowing everything is too much like knowing nothing; without a story, it’s all just information.

The Candy House, like its predecessor A Visit from the Goon Squad, is a difficult novel to describe. It revolves loosely around the idea that Bix Bouton, an entrepreneur who started this novel’s version of Facebook, next creates a device called “Own Your Unconscious.” The device allows the user to download and then access to every memory they’ve ever had, and—if they’re willing to share the memory with the collective—to access the memory of every other user too. This device is basically a supercharged version of the social media world we all live in now, and Ms. Egan uses it to explore a number of ideas in The Candy House. Artificiality versus authenticity, both online and in the real world. Our ever disappearing privacy. How the inventors of technology constantly fail to appreciate the ways it will be used, and change society, often to our collective detriment. Is there room for art in a world more and more defined by algorithms?

The narrative in The Candy House shifts back and forth over several decades, both in the past and the future. Different chapters are presented from the perspective of different characters, varying between first-person, second-person, and third-person storytelling, even an epistolary chapter. Nearly every character from A Visit from the Goon Squad returns here. I would argue there’s no main character at all. Instead, the storytelling is more like a collage, constantly jumping from one person to the next (sometimes in almost dizzying fashion) and highlighting the ever growing connections between all of these characters.

I enjoyed The Candy House, though it will not be for everybody. With all the shifting perspectives and time jumps, keeping track of who’s telling what story when is not always easy. And the story here—which is sometimes about the technology and sometimes about the people—is less cohesive and less compelling than in A Visit from the Goon Squad. Still, the writing is again excellent, as you’d expect from an author won the Pulitzer Prize. Recommended. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
Profile Image for Alwynne.
525 reviews491 followers
April 23, 2022
The Candy House’s the sibling of Jennifer Egan’s hugely successful, award-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad a complex meditation on aging and the passage of time, set around the music industry. Like Goon Squad this is structured more as an assemblage of linked, yet standalone, stories, 14 in total, than unified, linear narrative; it also moves around in time and space, from the 1960s to the 1930s, showcasing a similar range of narrative strategies and techniques. This too is rooted in a specialist area, the tech industry or more specifically social media. It revolves around an imagined creation, Own Your Unconscious, which enables users to upload and store their entire consciousness or opt to share it online as part of a larger collective. The technology’s the brainchild of Bix Boulton a Black entrepreneur who’s attained global fame, loosely modelled on Steve Jobs – Egan dated Jobs during her college years. Boulton’s concept follows on from earlier successes, inspired by a chance encounter at a New York gathering of academics.

Boulton, like many others portrayed here, previously appeared in A Visit from the Goon Squad only then he was a bit player. The candy house in the title refers to those glimpsed in fairy tales, devised by evil witches to lure unsuspecting victims, suggesting that, even though Egan shuns the dystopian label, this is a variation on a cautionary tale. The period preceding Boulton’s invention's marked by his growing feelings of dissatisfaction, a search for intellectual stimulation, the need to prove he can still be original and an intense mourning for a form of human connection he’s witnessed but never actually experienced. Own Your Unconscious seems to promise a level of connection and shared understanding otherwise impossible in ordinary everyday settings, but is it also something highlighting the need to be careful what you wish for?

Although the ostensible link’s the impact of Own Your Unconscious on the assembled characters, Egan seems less concerned with the traditional terrain of speculative fiction, and did no research into the techno-futurist elements – the tech’s mechanics are sketched out but the science behind it, and even the notion of what consciousness, or memory, might be is only hazily addressed. This leads to a certain, frustrating incoherence at times: for instance, on one level the technology allows for the unearthing of repressed or other forms of memory which become key evidence in securing convictions in historical child abuse cases, rather like accessing live-action replays; but at the same time it’s suggested that memory’s partial, partly subjective rather than reliable, unassailable truth. Perhaps this is because Egan seems far more engaged in the nitty-gritty of human interaction, at times the technology storyline seems to operate more as a conceit, or MacGuffin, allowing her to explore broader issues around loss, yearning and alienation.

Another apparent preoccupation’s with the “void” a sense of lack central to numerous characters' experiences, existentially lost, groping for something they believe’s just beyond their grasp, that will somehow make them whole and fulfilled. Part of this plays out through the extensive references to drugs and substance dependency, presumably building on issues that have haunted American society for some time, the failed war on drugs, the current opioid crisis. Egan often seems to be intent on chronicling, somewhat obliquely, the plight of the crumbling, anxiety-ridden American middle-classes. Although the idea that people desperate to numb their consciousness with drugs, or alcohol, or whatever else is available, might also want to preserve it’s an intriguing one. For one figure, Roxy, the tech offers a chance to relive her glory days, while another uses it to track down a chance acquaintance whose possible fate’s been bothering him for years.

Another major theme’s the quest for authenticity, which emerged from Egan’s reading of theories put forward by Daniel Borstein in the early sixties. An idea that mass media stirs cravings for access to some form of unmediated reality which it never actually satisfies. Egan’s compared this to TikTok and the way in which it promotes the idea of presenting something raw, unrehearsed, rather like eavesdropping on a conversation in progress. This is amusingly rendered in a chapter purporting to be a case study of a man so obsessed with immediacy that he routinely disrupts social settings by emitting loud, long-lasting screams. Set against this is a competing desire to categorise, anticipate and label every aspect of human expression, part of the work of the data quantifiers employed by Boulton’s company Mandala. Yet, as Egan has pointed out, data without nuanced interpretation or narrativization is pretty much redundant, failing to predict 9/11 or Trump’s election. This leads into Egan making a case for fiction, at least the kind contained on the page, and for the writers who shape and consider what meanings might be attached to thoughts, events or behaviours.

Overall, it’s a well-crafted, thoughtful, ambitious piece, that raises a multitude of relevant questions - although I’m not personally convinced they’re ones this kind of literature’s adequately equipped to address beyond the superficial. But I found it far less compulsively, or smoothly, readable as its predecessor, it’s much closer to a collection than it is a novel. There were some stories, like Roxy’s which really stood out, others which seemed a little perfunctory and less than enthralling.

Thanks to Netgalley and publisher Corsair for an ARC
Profile Image for Jill.
1,150 reviews1,591 followers
April 8, 2022
"Nothing is free! Only children expect otherwise even as myths and fairy tales warn us: Rumpelstiltskin, King Midas, Handsel and Gretel. Never trust a candy house! It was only a matter of time before someone made them pay for what they thought they were getting for free."


The candy house in question in this dazzling new novel by Jennifer Egan is collective consciousness. What if individuals were able to access every memory from their entire lifetime and upload them to a cloud-based Mandela box in exchange for access to others’ memories? What if we could roam through the odd, twisting corridors of one another’s minds and presumably experience a global rise in empathy and understanding of each other? What would it cost us in terms of our freedoms and our humanity to take a bite out of this candy house?

It’s an audacious concept and it’s hard to determine whether it’s prescient or part of an inevitable journey that we are already on. With the explosion of social media and the continual uploading of all our thoughts, experiences, relationships, and feelings, the concept hits uncomfortably close to home. That’s particularly true as Jennifer Egan shines a spotlight on Bix, a new iteration of a tech genius held in thrall by his Vision to launch Own Your Consciousness, thereby revolutionizing how we connect to one another.

Sure, there are the labels – the "counters" with their algorithms that identify and exploit desires to the "eluders", who take all measures to evade being part of the collective unconsciousness But The Candy House is not primarily a sci-fi or a dystopian tale; largely, it is a character study, allowing each successive character to enjoy his or her moment in the spotlight. Each chapter focuses on characters that range from Bix Bouton, the charismatic technological creator of the Mandela Box, to Lulu, a citizen national security spy who is also the daughter of the publicist Dolly from the Goon Squad. Music producer Bennie Salazar – also from the Goon Squad – also makes an appearance along with his grown children. One by one, the damaged, the egotistical, the striving, the searching introduce themselves.

What’s truly a joy is that every character has his or her own voice and own role in this fast-moving kaleidoscope of a tale where the parts transition into an amazing whole. Jennifer Egan exploits multiple voices, tenses (omniscient narrator to first-person plural) and even multiple forms – including a somewhat lengthy epistolary section and a multi-page series of tweets – to weave a spellbinding tale.

But at the end of the day, the theme is centered in what price we pay for innovations that work against individuality and privacy in their quest for uniformity. To feel the collective without any machinery may be worth a thousand candy houses. It’s up to the characters – and ultimately, we readers – to determine whether we give way to the seduction that new technology offers.

I am thrilled to be an early reader of this brilliant book and thank Scribner, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, for providing me with an early galley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ari Levine.
182 reviews132 followers
April 20, 2022
Almost as enjoyable as A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of my favorite reads of (checks notes) 2011, and a novel I've re-read a couple of times since then. Since The Candy House is a natural outgrowth or a sibling of its predecessor, I'd recommend reading it as a refresher (or maybe for the first time) before cracking this one open. This would probably work as a stand-alone reading experience, since these 14 individual short stories eventually accumulate into a legible web of interconnections. Nevertheless, I think having some basic familiarity with the previous installment would illuminate the return paths and life arcs of many of the main characters in this volume, who previously appeared as (mostly) minor characters in Goon Squad as ex-spouses, children, and co-workers of major characters.

While Goon Squad was a postmodern hyper-cycle about the passage of time as manifested in punk rock, The Candy House is a meditation on memory as refracted through past, present, and future forms of personal data harvesting and the attention economy. Science-fictional elements predominate here, too-- a digital technology of externalizing individuals' memories and uploading them to the cloud in their entirety to be shared as "Collective Consciousness"-- but Egan handles them artfully without clumsy exposition or infodumps. The main theme here is the tension between personal authenticity in real life and faking it on social media, but with some intriguing Black Mirror-style twists: in a nightmare future where entire lives are fully public and searchable, no individual sense of privacy can possibly exist, and Counters working for the social-media monopolies hunt down Eluders who use bot Proxies as outward-facing simulacra.

The most successful stories were Egan's most daring formal experiments in metanarrative, which came about 3/4 of the way through: "Lulu the Spy, 2032," a short story told entirely in second-person tweets, and "See Below," a collection of email transcripts. But while Egan's prose is always sparklingly clever and propulsive, a couple of the stories ("The Perimeter After," "The Perimeter Before") had a modern-day Cheeveresque WASPs-in-Westchester vibe that I found monotonous. With a few exceptions (Bix Bouton, Bennie Salazar), the characters are almost uniformly white, which wouldn't have been all that problematic back in 2011, but this seems especially glaring in 2022.

One thing I've loved about Egan's novels (until now) is that each has been an entirely different beast from the others, but she isn't breaking much new artistic or creative ground here. Yet, she almost completely succeeds in performing the same magic trick twice, and The Candy House never felt tired or formulaic, or like a cynical cash-in on the popularity of Goon Squad, dispelling my initial apprehensions.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Scribner for sharing an ARC of this in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,847 reviews16.3k followers
January 1, 2022
Jennifer Egan can write.

I am a fan of her 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Visit From the Good Squad so I wanted to read this – I was not disappointed, actually very impressed.

Egan summons up her best Faulkner and goes full experimental literature on us as she takes the reader on a ride into the future with her “Own Your Unconscious” idea.

This may be a demonstration of how books are written from here on out.

Egan is just bragging at this point, making it look easy, a swaggering virtuosity of prose that should also win her many accolades.

Bix Bouton, comes up with an idea to externalize memories, and share our memories, and his high tech idea changes the world. But Egan asks the simple question, is this for everyone, and do we really want all of our memories, shared or otherwise.

In a world that is increasingly defined by tech, and growing less private, Egan’s timely novel poses existential questions about who we are now, how we got here and where do we want to go from here.

Very, very good and I’ll be reading more from her.

Thanks to Netgalley for a sneak peak at this exceptional novel.

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Profile Image for Tim.
2,084 reviews192 followers
September 9, 2022
The story starts well before losing itself by drifting into different personas and characters. Too much to make it worthwhile following with just an okay end. 3 of 10 stars
Profile Image for Faith.
1,801 reviews481 followers
May 31, 2022
I liked the premise but hated the characters and writing style. Since I couldn’t finish “A Visit to the Goon Squad” or “Manhattan Beach” either, it is confirmed that this author and I do not mesh. I will not try again. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Peter Boyle.
475 reviews575 followers
January 22, 2023
I was a big fan of A Visit from the Goon Squad. Its kaleidoscopic tale of interlinked characters blew my mind (especially the famous Powerpoint chapter). So I was ready to love its sequel, The Candy House. But I'm sorry to report that it doesn't contain any of the magic of its predecessor, and I struggled to finish it.

The story is mostly set in the near future, focussing on the next internet revolution. And the latest sensation is a platform called Own Your Unconsciousness, which lets users upload their memories into the cloud, allowing them to be accessed by anyone. Bix Bouton is the tech superstar who created it - Goon Squad fans might remember him as a promising grad student from the early 90s. And other characters from the earlier book make appearances, including nomadic music producer Lou Kline and his daughter Charlene.

It's hard to put a finger on the reasons The Candy House didn't appeal to me. But I just thought the story wasn't cohesive enough - the storyline jumped around too much, and connecting the dots between characters felt like hard work instead of fun. The whole thing never felt as fresh or as innovative as Goon Squad. I'm probably in the minority on this, but I'm afraid it was a let-down for me.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,089 reviews7,948 followers
June 8, 2022
What A Visit for the Goon Squad explored through music in a post-9/11 America, The Candy House does with social media in the pandemic era.

The joy of reading an Egan novel is her creativity. She's playful: with her story structure, her characterization, the genre-like writing styles she dips in and out of, down to the sentence level, even.

While this one didn't blow me away as much as Goon Squad, I can imagine revisiting this again. There's so much in this 330 page novel to unpack, the biggest discussion revolving around data overload, the information we share and upload to the 'collective consciousness' of the internet. Writing this review itself on the internet, just another data point tied to my internet identity...it's something to ponder. I appreciate Egan raising questions, not giving answers.

Her characters, her fiction, holds up a mirror to our world but is not a facsimile of it. It's something like an alternate universe, something we cannot create online.
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