Reviewed by Gwendolyn Dawson
Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Good Squad, is a collection of loosely connected short stories presented as a novel that spans decades and covers the overlapping lives of numerous characters. Each of thirteen chapters is told from the perspective of a different character, such that no single character emerges as a protagonist. In addition to jumping back and forth across various times and characters, Egan also experiments with form in these stories. The most unusual story takes the form of a PowerPoint presentation.
Egan’s self-imposed constraints are conceptually interesting, and, evaluated individually, the stories are generally well-crafted and imaginative. Overall, however, A Visit from the Goon Squad lacks narrative cohesion and doesn’t exhibit enough direction or momentum to tie the stories together. A chapter written as a 70-page PowerPoint presentation, for example, is visually striking but delivers a reading experience that feels more like an over-long business meeting than an engaging work of fiction. While Egan’s creativity and willingness to push boundaries is laudable, the uncoordinated result disappoints.
A Visit from the Goon Squad is published in the United States by Knopf.
Gwendolyn Dawson is the founder of Literary License. Her reviews appear here and there regularly.