My personal assessment of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad changes each time I think back on it. Sometimes I think it’s a trifling thing, made up of airy stories that don’t really have any staying power beyond the act of reading them. Other times certain passages simply haunt me. I change my mind even further whenever I read other people’s reviews of it, especially since time and winning the Pulitzer seems to have turned some people into dismissing Goon Squad and its importance. But after hearing Slate’s Audio Book Club Podcast discussing the book I think that I can comfortably put a stake in the ground: I love this book.
The buzz surrounding this novel originally came from its stylistic inventiveness and subject matter. It is series of loosely interconnected short stories that track the lives of several individuals across space and time. Many of them, like Benny and Sasha, are heavily involved in the music industry while others are more tenuously so. People pop up and disappear all throughout, turning the entire novel into a a treasure hunt of sorts as you try to discover what happens to characters that you care about. Time is the goon that the title refers to, a shadowy figure that roughs you up and beats you down when you least expect it.