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July 01, 2013

65 Book Challenge: Book Three, "A Visit from the Goon Squad", Review

A_Visit_From_the_Goon_SquadI’ve finally finished my third book on my 65 Book Challenge and I have to admit I’m reaching a point where I’m feeling slightly discouraged. Don’t get me wrong, my third read, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, was great; but it seemed that, much like the first two I read, it tended to drift into rather depressing channels of thought. Be that as it may, you’ll notice that my Goodreads account shows three stars for this novel – something I will explain in more detail later – and I’m very optimistic that my next book will be at least slightly brighter and happier than the last three. A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about, if anything, aging. You might not see it right away, in fact, you’ll find yourself caught up with so many different stories happening at different points in time that, much like myself, the age issue may not dawn on you until the very end. Throughout the book you’ll keep running into the same people, all of them somehow connected, and yet they all have one thing in common: none are exempt from the pressures and weight that age imposes upon them. Egan seems to be saying that the freedom and roughness of youth dissipates drastically once you are over thirty; sometimes so excessively that even your personality refuses to stay the same. Nothing sums it up better than the following quote from A Visit from the Goon Squad: “Alex felt an ache in his eyes and throat. “I don’t know what happened to me,” he said, shaking his head. “I honestly don’t.” Bennie glanced at him, a middle-aged man with chaotic silver hair and thoughtful eyes. “You grew up, Alex,” he said, “Just like the rest of us.”” So why the three stars on Goodreads?  Well, because the problems of wealthy suburbia America, the commonness of having a shrink to help you through your ‘issues’, the idea that at some point you simply stop living because life, the world, and people become redundant as you become jaded, all caused me to remember some of the best works of the Lost Generation. After all, didn’t Fitzgerald and Hemingway write about similar issues felt by their own peers? Perhaps we only think that we outgrow the problems of past generations and develop new ones as technology and the planet progresses at break neck speed. It’s possible that this is precisely what Egan was attempting to do in her novel: show that we are also a Lost Generation; fickle, self-absorbed, and desperately searching for something ‘real’. The only question that remains is, will we, like her characters, fail to find validity before it’s too late? I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you’re in the midst of reading A Visit from the Goon Squad, or have already read it. And be sure to join me for the next novel on my 65 Book Challenge List: The Secret History by Donna Tartt. :)