A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
A Visit From the Goon Squad is a depressing, vignette-style collection of interconnected short stories about growing up, reflection, time, and life. It’s beautiful and ugly at the same time, and I loved it.
The reader follows character after character, somehow related to the one previous, during a specific period in their lives. You learn about where a character came from through their friend’s memory of childhood, then view them years later from their ex-wife or child. At times it can be disconcerting and puzzling to figure out how the current perspective relates to the grand scheme, but when it hits, it’s cathartic and fun.
The stories aren’t about anything in particular, just a brief moment in that character’s life and who they were at that moment, but it reflects on memory and trying to recapture moments, nostalgia and the passage of time.
What I really loved about this book was the format and risks the author took. You see characters from different perspectives, giving them more dynamic characterization and development; most are flawed, with vices and honest moments of clarity and introspection. Even the writing differs based on the characters, which makes it easier to dive into that character’s head and feel what they’re feeling. Interconnected stories that jump through time and characters are some of my favorite stories, and this doesn’t disappoint. I couldn’t wait to figure out who the next perspective would be, to hear their story.
At times A Visit From the Goon Squad can be very depressing. It talks about life, loss, and growing older; watching your life pass by from the sidelines, reflecting on who you were and how the world has changed around you, but you haven’t. Depressing, but also poignant and beautifully poetic.