A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Book Review


A Visit from the Goon SquadBook Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Audiobook

Book Series: N/A

Released: 6/8/2010 by Knopf

Pages: 288 Price:$14.95 Paperback

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Source: I borrowed the audiobook from the library.



Book Synopsis:

Jennifer Egan’s spellbinding interlocking narratives circle the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other’s pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa.

We first meet Sasha in her mid-thirties, on her therapist’s couch in New York City, confronting her long-standing compulsion to steal. Later, we learn the genesis of her turmoil when we see her as the child of a violent marriage, then as a runaway living in Naples, then as a college student trying to avert the suicidal impulses of her best friend. We plunge into the hidden yearnings and disappointments of her uncle, an art historian stuck in a dead marriage, who travels to Naples to extract Sasha from the city’s demimonde and experiences an epiphany of his own while staring at a sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Museo Nazionale. We meet Bennie Salazar at the melancholy nadir of his adult life—divorced, struggling to connect with his nine-year-old son, listening to a washed-up band in the basement of a suburban house—and then revisit him in 1979, at the height of his youth, shy and tender, reveling in San Francisco’s punk scene as he discovers his ardor for rock and roll and his gift for spotting talent. We learn what became of his high school gang—who thrived and who faltered—and we encounter Lou Kline, Bennie’s catastrophically careless mentor, along with the lovers and children left behind in the wake of Lou’s far-flung sexual conquests and meteoric rise and fall. 

A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. In a breathtaking array of styles and tones ranging from tragedy to satire to PowerPoint, Egan captures the undertow of self-destruction that we all must either master or succumb to; the basic human hunger for redemption; and the universal tendency to reach for both—and escape the merciless progress of time—in the transporting realms of art and music. Sly, startling, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers.

My Review:

I was in charge of selecting the two Book Talk books for June and July at the library where I work.  Wanting to tie into our Summer Reading Program, which is open to all patrons this year (adults for the first time).  I sought out books that would work well with the theme which is Library’s Rock.  After finishing this book I feel that it works well but am a bit nervous about what the ladies in our reading group will think of it.  A couple of them will love the Rock n’ Roll theme of the book but a few might have issues with the sex, drugs, and swearing in the novel.  The books arrived today so I guess there is no turning back…

Now, onto what I thought of the book.  I’m not sure exactly, the book lost me a little in the middle as I tried to listen to it during a time I couldn’t concentrate.  I didn’t hate it but I don’t think I got it either.  Being told from a new POV each chapter giving a slightly different perspective on different events over the span of years this book follows meant if I didn’t care for a character I only needed to suffer through them for one chapter.  While that was nice in some instances you also have the problem of not being able to become attached and invested in any one character either.  So you need to either be really excited about the overall picture the book is trying to paint or wander through the book wondering what the point of it all is.  I think I fell into the latter group.  I think I get the message the author was trying to give me but by the end, I didn’t really care.

I did like how the story came full circle at the end but listening to the audiobook left me out of the loop for the chapter told in PowerPoint slide as I don’t think it had the same effect being read to you instead of seeing them in person.  I do plan to check out that chapter before the book talk.  I also found the chapter dealing with the concept of evolving language over the years.  How words are adapted over time by each generation that uses them.  This is something that I have noticed working in the library.  The conflict between an older generation that thinks their ownership of language and communication should not be challenged and a younger group that could care less about what they think.

While I’m nervous about the book talk I’m also looking forward to seeing what others in my community think of the book.  Perhaps they will help me see what I missed.  Without further input, however, I’m going to shrug my shoulders and say eh.  I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either and never found myself excited to listen to it.

My Rating: 2 Stars


2 thoughts on “A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

  1. I can see how this book is not for everyone (and also I feel like it would be tough to listen to, since one whole chapter was in powerpoint format). However, I really loved the way that little details/threads from each section found their way into the other sections.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not much of a music enthusiast, or interested in the industry. I did enjoy how the storylines connected up, from what I remember at least. The middle is a little fuzzy as I was having problems with my blue tooth headphones while mowing. I’m also not much of a contemporary fiction fan. I have hopes that a few of the ladies at my library will enjoy it though!.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.