Book Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad

In April, author Jennifer Egan was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for her latest work, A Visit from the Goon Squad. A heartbreaking and illuminating reflection on the passage of time, the Goon Squad explores the landscape of a group of friends and strangers as they grow up, look back, and test the waters of a changing world.

Albert Einstein said, “The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Or in the words of one of Egan’s vivid characters, “Time is a goon.” Egan captures the tiny tragedies and beautiful memories as the hubs of her stratospheric story endure the pains and rewards of transition, revelation, and knowledge that a true hold of time will forever evade them. Each chapter delves into the minds and memory of over a dozen characters, slowly revealing their connective strings.

Egan’s story-telling is anything but “conventional,” in fact, an entire chapter is relayed in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. But Egan beautifully pulls each format off, never failing to convey the varying tones and understanding with which adults, teenagers and children process their worlds.           

Egan’s breath-taking work rings of truth – the rare truth that wins Pulitzers and blows minds – and leaves the reader with more questions than answers. What brings one man riches and another ruin? How do we find and sustain relationships of comfort and meaning? What is the honest price paid for success, or stability, or a simple sigh of relief? The Goon Squad doesn’t seek to justify the rubble beneath a dozen diverging lives, and it doesn’t cite a higher power or a paint supernatural picture. The mystery, the reason and the brilliance of life all reside within a single source – each other.