Book Review: A Visit From the Goon Squad

There’s a reason why people come and go in our lives. Or so we’re brought up to believe. Is that wishful thinking, or is there some truth to this, as wake to new day every morning.

I would like to think that it’s the latter, considering the fact that Life without any meaning, would be unbearable. I’d like to be in control of my destiny. I’d like to believe it all leads somewhere, and that I have a say in such matters.

Yet there’s this part of our lives where it seems as if we have no say in the matter at all – events that shake us thoroughly, that defies our own understanding of what Life should be but most of all, adding to the numerous embarrassments that each of us have to live through, from the cradle to the grave.

It’s fate, and something that you see clearly as you read Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, A Visit from the Good Squad.

But there’s no Goon Squad…

The author, after the book received rave reviews and a number of nominations, cited that two sources influenced her to write this one namely HBO’s “The Sopranos” and Proust’s “À la Recherche du Temps Perdu”.

And just like there’s no mockingbird to kill in “How to Kill a Mockingbird”, there are no literal goons as characters except that of Father Time, as the author revealed in an interview.

Despite a number of characters and locales that is a part of the book, the two main characters are Bennie and Sasha. The former, being an aging music executive, while the latter working as his assistant.

As mentioned earlier, you are introduced, as the reader, to a number of characters that are related to both these central characters – a ride that spans almost 6 decades, right from the late 60s to the near future, around 2019 or so.

A theme that you will find as you go through the book is the way each of these characters have destructive traits, and how Life sends them off in directions that they were not prepared for nor that they intended to pick in the first place.

As for the locales, the plot, which some consider to be a collection of short stories, take place mostly in New York City, California, Africa and Italy. It is a story that points out how time robs people of not only their youth, the success that they enjoy as well as the innocence that they once had.

For the most part of the book, one gets to read a bit about the rock and roll industry in which most of the characters work in but also treats the characters who work in public relations and celebrity journalism albeit with less criticism than one would expect.

Another theme that stands out in the book is the way our lives has changed due to technology – and how people who are now ‘old’ are coping with these rapid changes.

In Closing

It’s brilliant, to say the least, considering the fact that it doesn’t follow a conventional plot as most books do. And almost everyone who has read it agrees. It might definitely be worth your time especially if you’ve been a rock and roll fan, and have seen the changes as the characters do.

But more so, if you understand (and probably accept gracefully) that becoming a  part of the past is only natural.