Tucked under a warm blanket with a cup of Rooibos tea, as yet another cold front sweeps across Cape Town with spells of cleansing rain, another brilliant novel is consumed. Reading A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, was one of the best ways I could have entertained myself during this dreary winter month. My favourite thing about this book is the way in which it brings the reader back and forth in time to piece the stories together, like a literary puzzle. And despite the depth and darkness contained in the string of intertwined stories, it made me laugh.
A Visit From the Goon Squad is made up of a series of stories, which all end up connecting with each other over the span of 13 chapters. Egan uses the first, second, and third person in her narratives – impressive, while casting the reader from one perspective to another. There is even an entire chapter told through the eyes of a twelve-year-old’s PowerPoint presentation.
Each and every one of Egan’s characters seem to stare back at us with our own adolescent eyes – their stories striking multiple chords with our own experiential heartstrings – while the world changes around them, around us. The stories unfold in unnervingly familiar tales of experimentation, self-destruction, and heartache. Music, and the music industry, is cleverly weaved throughout the novel as a way to connect us to our pasts, our futures, and describe the ways in which we must adapt to this ever-changing age of technology.
In Egan’s storytelling, the purity of music as it used to be (rock) before it advanced to its own decay (e.g. the pop music business) runs parallel to her stories of exuberant youth, inevitable deterioration, and exultant redemption. This book will have you looking at yourself in the world as if everything you hope for and fear has already happened, as if you are looking back and understand what it all means.