You know that amazing moment when you realize you’ve read a novel at the perfect time? How it feels like it was dropped into your lap for reasons you don’t even understand yet? And you just know that you’ll be reading it over and over until the spine cracks and the pages soften?
Well, that’s how I felt while reading Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit From The Goon Squad.”
I had to read it for my 21st century literature class because, even though I’m an English major, I have very little time to read for fun. Despite it being assigned, my love for this novel extends far beyond the classroom.
Reading “A Visit From The Goon Squad” was like looking at this beautiful mosaic of characters and relationships and timelines that weave around each other. All the pieces are different colors and jagged and don’t quite fit together, but they form this beautiful narrative that meditates on time, power, technology, perception (of ourselves and others), fiction and countless other post-postmodern themes.
Talking about the plot of this book is incredibly difficult as there are more than 10 characters who all have fully formed narratives that rely on each other. This novel had to have been a huge undertaking for Egan as she created complex characters who feel more like humans than plot-movers.
I think one of the reasons this novel affected me so much is because I had such immense feelings of nostalgia. Reading some of the narratives made me feel like I was finding parts of myself that I thought time had buried. In an odd way, this novel felt like something I had already read.
There’s a moment when two characters, Drew and Robbie, are promising that they’ll “remember this day” even after they don’t know each other anymore. From a second-person point of view, Egan writes, “You look over at Drew, squinting in the sun, and for a second the future tunnels out and away, some version of ‘you’ at the end of it, looking back,” and I think that’s what amazing literature should do.
It should illuminate the tunnel to both your past and future, so you can see (even if just for a moment) everything you were, are and could be. In this fractured, fragmented world, literature should be what makes us whole again — even if that means really, truly looking at yourself in the yellowing light of your bedroom.
What I really love about this novel is that it appeals to both my academic and emotional sides. It lends itself to intense literary criticism while also being a book I can curl up with and fall into endlessly. It’s a book that makes me wish the margins were bigger just so I could make more annotations.
I foresee myself visiting “A Visit From The Goon Squad” over and over again.