Summer Travel Read: Visit from the Goon Squad

Goon Squad

Source: Entertainment Weekly

I always take several novels when we go on holiday.  It used to be impossible to get much reading done, but now that the kids are slightly older, it’s getting easier.  One of the novels I took on our recent trip was A Visit from the Goon Squad, the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner, by Jennifer Egan.  My book club actually chose it for our next meeting in September (August is a vacation month for most people), but it was pure coincidence that they chose it as I was already midway through the book when they made the selection.  As much as I enjoyed the book, I’m slightly afraid that I’ll have forgotten much of the story by the time September rolls around.  I may read it again before the meeting date arrives.

The book is a study in time travel, and I can easily see how Egan took home the Pulitzer. Through a collection of short stories, she connects every character to one another and provides a resolution to each story as the book continues with explanations to how characters turn out at various chapters of their lives.  She does it quite skillfully, even using a powerpoint presentation in one chapter to explain the dynamics amongst characters.

Each story is related in some way to Bennie Salazar, who has a teen ager loved punk music and was in a band, or to Sasha, his troubled assistant with a kleptomaniac problem.  They reveal something about a chapter in their lives, through the eyes of someone who intersected with them in the past or future.  It’s basically six degrees of separation as characters either know each other or pass each other by at some point in their lives.

All in all, I enjoyed the book and definitely was eager to pick up on our many train journeys and plane rides.  I would have liked more of the book focused on Sasha.  I really enjoyed the chapters that related to her much more than the ones that related to the egotistical Bennie.

I may follow up this post in September after we have our group discussion.  When we discussed Egan’s The Keep, I recall not many people liking it but The Goon Squad is a very different book.

What is your summer travel read?  Please tell me in the comments below.

Disclosure: I paid for this book and all opinions expressed are my own.



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  1. Wonderful summary, of a tricky plot. I would add, that I think it is best enjoyed if you have a chunk of time to read it. Because of the intertwining of the characters and the switches in time, I felt it can get confusing, when you need to put it down constantly (e.g the phone rings, a kid screams, the tea pot is whistling, you are late to an appointment…). In order to get all the brilliant nuances , I think, you need a chance to concentrate a bit. Otherwise, a fascinating read!

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