Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Visit From the Goon Squad

"Alex closed his eyes and listened: a storefront gate sliding down. A dog barking hoarsely. The lowing of trucks over bridges. The velvety night in his ears. And the hum, always that hum, which maybe wasn't an echo after all, but the sound of time passing."

I have to admit that this was one of the books that had been sitting on my shelf for months now begging to be read. After reading so many reviews glorifying it, I was scared that I would find it not living up to all the hype. I was wrong.

Jennifer Egan's novel A Visit From the Goon Squad takes the reader on a ride, much the same way that each and every life so often does. Written as several stories revolving around a number of interconnected characters' lives, she takes the reader from point A to B. However, she does so from several perspectives and in non-chronological time frames.

The main characters in the novel are Sasha and Bennie. Sasha is a passionate, although troubled young woman who works as Bennie's personal assistant. Bennie is a former punk rocker and record executive. The novel opens on a scene in which Sasha has just stolen an unsuspecting woman's wallet from the ladies' room, a bad habit the reader soon finds Sasha is trying to stop. She leaves and goes on to meet her date, Alex. Soon after, the reader is allowed glimpses into her past as Egan mentions Sasha's private therapy sessions and what are discussed during them. Later, the reader is introduced to the strictly platonic relationship that exists between Sasha and Bennie. From here, Jennifer Egan goes on to introduce a number of other stories and characters whose lives will somehow become entangled in Sasha's and Bennie's destinies. The novel ends as Bennie and Alex are walking at night. Alex is reflecting on what has happened to him over the years, as Bennie sagely says what readers have witnessed through the course of the novel "You grew up, Alex, just like the rest of us".

Youth offers you passion and exuberance. But those qualities don't always last till the end of time. This novel illustrated this. It showed what time steals and also what dissolves over time in individuals, whether they allow it to or whether they try to fight the disappearance of such qualities with all their might. I might also add that Jennifer Egan's entire chapter written as a PowerPoint presentation was unique and refreshing. In my opinion, new ways to engage the reader are at the very least always fun to experiment with. I also enjoyed the subtle references of minor characters' pasts and futures played out. My list of characters and notes were lengthy by the time I was through reading. However, meeting all those characters and being offered a peek at their personal stories and where they ended up was well worth it.

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