Monique's Reviews > A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
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's review
May 25, 2011

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bookshelves: 2011, award-winners, buddy-read, fiction, kindle

Six degrees of separation winning the Pulitzer, with twisted characters in various states of senescence, forlorn, gloom, and devastation all at the same time, spanning several decades as time frame. That, in a nutshell, is my assessment of "A Visit From The Goon Squad".

This is no cerebral review of the novel; I do not want to over-analyze any underlying messages or meanings beneath each and every chapter which featured a different character. Instead, these are simple observations.

The shifting perspectives and time frames took a little getting used to: there was even one chapter, “Out Of Body”, where Drew and Rob, as college students, get high on the streets of New York and end up swimming in the garbage-strewn Hudson River (please correct me if this is wrong). The narration spoke of “you”, as in, “You are doing this and that”, and “you” turns out to be Rob. At first, the abrupt change in the perspectives was disorienting, and I had to read slowly just to be able to comprehend the circumstances of who, when, and where for every chapter. However, three, four chapters in, and I eventually got the hang of it.

What I appreciated about the book was how everything tied up in the end – not as neatly or seamlessly as I had expected it would, but fair enough that the more important characters found some sort of resolution to their respective life dilemmas: Bennie, Sasha, Alex, Scotty. The last chapter even found Joe, that native African guy whom Lou's daughter, Charlie, had been eyeing during their Safari once upon a time, getting engaged to Lulu, Dolly's (or La Doll) daughter. In fact, this last chapter, entitled “Pure Language”, qualifies as my favorite one. Props, however, must be given to the PowerPoint presentation that was Chapter 12, “Great Rock and Roll Pauses”, for being innovative and unique.

I've been thinking about why Jennifer Egan gave it the title, ”A Visit From The Goon Squad”, and all I could infer is the fact that the ”goon” in the book - which is time - had, in varied, distorted, even perverted ways, sojourned with each of the characters and made them the convoluted people that they've become.

Style-wise, I wouldn't say that the book was beautifully written, but it was well-thought out, uncontrived and frank. In between chapters, there was absolutely no transition, but within, the narrative deftly switched scenes using reminiscences (e.g., Ted remembering Sasha's childhood) and blunt statements of a character's fate, years from the present time (e.g. the fates of Lou's children, Rolph and Charlie). This much I also appreciated about the novel.

All in all, it was an okay read. I was expecting to be impressed, the novel having won the Pulitzer, but then again, I guess not every Pulitzer-winning book will grab you in the way that you expect. That's how it was for me and ”A Visit From The Goon Squad”.

P.S. Thanks again, ALDRIN for the copy! :)
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Reading Progress

May 25, 2011 – Shelved
June 8, 2011 – Started Reading
June 8, 2011 –
5.0% "Kleptomaniac?"
June 12, 2011 –
13.0% "Huh, what's with the gold flakes in the coffee? Weeeird."
June 16, 2011 –
21.0% "I wonder if there's a real Mabuhay Gardens."
June 17, 2011 –
31.0% "More than a quarter of the book read, but everything looks pointless to me. Lots of characters whose roles are still unclear. Or am I just in a hurry?"
June 19, 2011 –
49.0% "The shifting-perspectives style is taking some getting used to. So. Time's a goon. Hm."
June 20, 2011 –
73.0% "So, is this book like, the six degrees of separation winning the Pulitzer?"
June 21, 2011 –
89.0% "It appears that only one character, so far, binds everybody else."
June 21, 2011 – Shelved as: 2011
June 21, 2011 – Shelved as: award-winners
June 21, 2011 – Shelved as: buddy-read
June 21, 2011 – Shelved as: fiction
June 21, 2011 – Shelved as: kindle
June 21, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Kwesi 章英狮 (last edited Jun 22, 2011 01:01AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kwesi 章英狮 I wonder why the synopsis on the back of the book talks about Sasha and Bennie although the book was all about their past and only few events were mentioned their names in one chapter at the same time.

Monique Kwesi, maybe because they are considered the central characters of the book, to whom everyone else is connected, or from whom everyone else can be traced. Did you notice, the book began with a chapter about Sasha, and ended with a chapter on Bennie, and Alex, who was with Sasha in the first chapter? :)

Kwesi 章英狮 Yap. I see, but I was expecting that the book will focus more to Sasha and Benie like other novels.

Monique They were probably springboards for all the other characters. :)

Monique Thanks to everyone who liked my review!

Aldrin You're always welcome, Monique. Just tell me which books you'd like me to pilfer for you. Haha.

A minor correction: Rob and Drew swam in the East River. It was Crispin Salvador who was found dead in the Hudson. :)

message 7: by Monique (last edited Jun 22, 2011 11:37PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Monique Aldrin wrote: "You're always welcome, Monique. Just tell me which books you'd like me to pilfer for you. Haha.

A minor correction: Rob and Drew swam in the East River. It was Crispin Salvador who was found dead in the Hudson."

Actually, what I'd like you to teach me is how to do the pilfering. LOL.

Haha, see, I knew I got the river all wrong! I apologize for my very limited geographical knowledge of New York City. :D

Funny though, that the only river located in NY that I know of should be the one where Crispin Salvador's body was found - the one mentioned in Ilustrado, a favorite book. :P

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