Read This Book, Right Now: A Review of Jennifer Egan's "A Visit From the Goon Squad"
A Visit From the Goon Squad
by Jennifer Egan.
Published by Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, 2010.
Fiction. 340 pages.
Purchase "A Visit From the Goon Squad"
I actually hesitated about writing a review of this book. Not because I didn't want to recommend it to anyone and everyone who would listen - because I certainly do. But because the only thing I knew about it when I started reading it was that two people, whose opinions about books I highly value, had recommended it. And that's it. Nothing about the plot, nothing about the characters, nothing about the writing style. And they were right - I loved it.
And I think a large part of the reason I loved this book so much was that I had no expectations of it. Because of that, I'm going to do my best to review it without giving you too many expectations. Rather than tell you about the story, then, I'm going to tell you what I loved about this book.
- It was unlike anything I'd ever read. And I've read a lot. I've read classics, bestsellers, obscure books, fine literature and cheesy chick lit. I've read kids' books, young adult, and adult fiction and nonfiction. I've read from almost every genre out there. And I've never read a book quite like this one. The way the story was crafted was completely unique and it kept me interested page after page.
- It was disorienting. I had to work while I was reading this book. Especially in the beginning, my brain was in overdrive trying to piece things together and predict Egan's next move. I got confused, more than once. And being confused just fueled my desire to keep reading. With so many books, TV shows, and movies these days that are completely predictable at every turn, this book was anything but, and I found that to be its best feature.
- It's expertly crafted. There are two kinds of great storytellers - those who use words so masterfully that each sentence is packed with meaning, and those who weave a story so perfectly that they never reveal a single piece of information except at exactly the right time. While Egan is certainly both of these, she especially excels at the latter. A Visit From the Goon Squad isn't a mystery, but it reads like one, as Egan gives you glimpses into the characters lives, thoughts, and psyches at just the right times to help the reader make sense of the whole. It's delightful to read for that very reason.
I'm not the only one who loved this book - it won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the National Book Critic's Circle Award, and was named one of the best books of the year by over a dozen publications. So it's not just my word I'm asking you to take on how great this book is. But I'm asking you to also take my advice here: get your hands on this book right away. Don't read anything else about it. Don't even read the description on the back. Just start reading. Let yourself get disoriented, get confused, and then get sucked into this incredible story. You'll be glad you did.