Book Review: “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan

Illustration of guitar top with messy strings. Text: Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

“A Visit from the Goon Squad” offers an impressionistic look at life in music. Jennifer Egan’s novel jumps from character to character in thinly linked scenes intended to illustrate the triumphs, compromises and, most frequently, failures that accompany the ego-driven impulse of trying to make yourself heard.

Gripping and beautiful written, it shares more sadness than thrills. Our recurring characters include a kleptomaniac with a damaged past who serves as an assistant for a punk rocker turned label mogul. His mentor drifts in from decades back, showing the predatory nature of the scene and the raw atavistic impulse to dominate. We get burnouts and broken writers, despot publicists and stay-at-home dads trying to recollect who they once were. 

It’s not seamless, but it’s tender and deeply felt. Egan absolutely nails the ending too.


“She could tell that he was in excellent shape, not from going to the gym but from being young enough that his body was still imprinted with whatever sports he’d played in high school and college. Sasha, who was thirty-five, had passed that point.”


“In fact the whole apartment, which six years ago had seemed like a way station to some better place, had ended up solidifying around Sasha, gathering mass and weight, until she felt both mired in it and lucky to have it–as if she not only couldn’t move on but didn’t want to.”


“Lou is one of those men whose restless charm has generated a contrail of personal upheaval that is practically visible behind him: two failed marriages and two more kids back home in L.A. who were too young to bring on this three-week safari.”


“I looked down at the city. Its extravagance felt wasteful, like gushing oil or some other precious thing Bennie was hoarding for himself, using it up so no one else could get any. I thought: if I had a view like this to look down on every day, I would have the energy and inspiration to conquer the world. The trouble is, when you most need such a view, no one gives it to you.”