Book 35 of 52: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon Squadby Jennifer Egan – well this is one book where I don’t think I can offer more to what’s already been said about it. It won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critic Circle Award, and was a book of the year in a slew of magazines and newspapers.

But I’ll try, briefly: to me, this read as a book about aging. The story slides in time around a handful of characters who are loosely connected, and we see them at different stages of their lives. For most, the last time we see them, they are drawn in a state of melancholy and also living the consequences of previous actions, for good or for bad. No one we meet more than once seems to have lived up to his or her potential. The older adult versions of themselves are flat where the younger versions – no matter how much wrong they were doing – were full of promise and life.

Downer, right? Maybe I feel this way because I’m starting to think about aging. I turned 33 this summer, so my 20s are far behind me and I’m moving into the middle 30s where I have to make some decisions about my life (i.e. do I want a family, etc.) Maybe I’ll see something different if I read it in 10 more years, or if I’d read it when it first came out in 2010. But that’s the beauty of books – you can revisit them when you’re older and have lived more and have a different perspective on things. It’s like writing about a bad breakup five years after it happened as opposed to five months. You might have better clarity.

Side note: this is probably the most beat up book I’ve received from I only paid a $1, so I’m not surprised. I also took it camping, and it now smells like campfire (from reading it by a campfire) and salsa (from salsa that leaked on my bag), so I’m glad I took this rather than, say, a brand new hardcover with me.

Another side note: I was a member of the National Book Critics Circle when A Visit from the Goon Squad won, yet I still thought this was about gangster before I started reading. I need to pay better attention.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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