This compelling new novel from Jennifer Egan paints visual images for the reader, scanning the lives of musicians and assistants, from the past to the present; she also gives us glimpses of the future as we follow along in the moments.
Bennie Salazar and Sasha are the centerpiece characters in this tale. Their lives in the music business carry them from San Francisco, to Naples, and to New York; the time period shifts from the 1970s to the present day or possibly some time in the future. At the conclusion, the actual time period seems unclear.
We see how the lives of these artists can spin out of control, as exemplified by one Scotty, who is talented and gifted and, in the end, has almost completely slipped off the grid. He is totally a member of the “goon squad.”
Throughout A Visit from the Goon Squad, I felt a kind of disorientation…the constant shifting of perspectives was disconcerting at times. First person narrative, third person point of view; it took constant alertness and readjusting of my own perspective to stay attuned to what was happening.
Sometimes I would think…now who is this person? And then it would slowly become clear. Like the character Alex, in a moment when he is remembering bits and pieces of past events, expressed in this way:
“Alex looked up at the building, sooty against the lavender sky, and experienced a hot-cold flash of recognition, a shiver of déjà vu, as if he were returning to a place that no longer existed….”
This book made me think of real-life connections, and how our lives intersect with many people in this journey; sometimes, just when we’ve forgotten them, something will recall them for us.
It was sometimes difficult to read this book, which was compelling and haunting and a bit disturbing. There was one section in the book that was filled with word diagrams instead of regular prose…several pages of them. I found this style to be disruptive, and because of this aspect of the book, I am deducting one star.
Nevertheless, a four star read is a book that I recommend, especially for fans of Egan.